Roof collapses at ice rink in southern Germany; at least five dead |

Roof collapses at ice rink in southern Germany; at least five dead

BAD REICHENHALL, Germany – An ice rink roof collapsed onto dozens of skaters after heavy snowfall in the Bavarian Alps on Monday, killing at least five people, including four children, and trapping other victims between piles of debris and the frozen surface of the rink.Parents called out their children’s names, and rescue workers – some arriving from neighboring Austria – swarmed around the building in the town of Bad Reichenhall. Doctors set up a makeshift infirmary at a sports hall next door, where injured people lay with intravenous hookups, and fire crews worked to shovel away debris.A helicopter kept a floodlight on the scene as rescue workers scrambled into the early hours Tuesday to find victims and prop up what remained of the roof. With the structure stabilized, rescuers with dogs went into the building a little before midnight.Five people were confirmed dead – two boys ages 12 and 13, a 7-year-old girl, and an 8-year-old girl killed along with her mother – and as many as 35 were injured, police director Hubertus Andrae said. About 10 people were believed missing in the building.Andrae said after midnight that more people found inside were believed to be dead, but that they were buried under debris and could not immediately be recovered. He did not give further details, and police spokesman Franz Sommerauer would not say early Tuesday morning how many had been seen.Sommerauer said rescue crews had gained access to around half the hall, but still had not reached the suspected victims. They were trying to remove the largest chunks of debris with the help of six cranes.By late evening, a 6-year-old girl had been rescued with no significant injuries, and officials were still hopeful of finding more survivors.”There is still a chance that we can rescue living people from the rubble,” said Rudi Zeis, a local fire chief.Police said the death toll was nonetheless expected to rise as the search continued through the night.Peter Volk, a spokesman for the Malteser relief group, said rescuers feared those buried under the debris would have been pressed against the cold surface of the rink in freezing weather, he said.”Our rescue workers are expecting not just seriously injured people, but also people suffering from hypothermia,” Volk said.Snow choked local streets and area roads, snarling traffic and delaying badly needed equipment.Fire service officials said the flat roof appeared to have collapsed under the weight of snow. Local officials said there was a roughly 8-inch layer of snow on the roof of the building.The structure, built in the 1970s with a tall, airy design, had large glass windows around its sides and a concrete roof. It was attached to a municipal swimming pool, a tennis court and a restaurant. The rink measured 200 by 100 feet.An official with a local ice hockey club said town authorities told him a half hour before the 4 p.m. accident that a practice session for youth players was canceled because the rink was at risk of collapsing.However, “apparently the public skating was still continuing,” Thomas Rumpeltes told The Associated Press.Mayor Wolfgang Heitmeier said the weight of the snow had been measured at midday and that it was well below the point at which the hall would have to be closed.Heitmeier told reporters that, following strong snowfall in the afternoon, there had been concerns that critical levels could be reached Tuesday, and evening training was canceled as a precaution. The snow was to have been shoveled off Tuesday morning.However, he said officials did not see any danger on Monday “because the levels were significantly below the limit.”Bayerische Rundfunk radio reported that a supervisor had ordered the last skaters off the ice seconds before the collapse. It also said loud creaking was heard just before the accident.Bad Reichenhall, which has about 15,000 inhabitants, is in the southeastern corner of Germany, on the Austrian border about six miles from Salzburg.Bavarian Red Cross spokeswoman Hanna Hutschenreiter said rescue services had been called in from a wide area around the town, including Salzburg.Bavarian Governor Edmund Stoiber said he was “deeply shaken” by news of the accident.”Our hopes now rest with the rescue forces at the scene, who are doing everything they can,” he said.Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism