Latvian leader dubs supermarket cave-in ‘murder’

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RIGA: Latvia’s president demanded on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) that a supermarket cave-in, which killed at least 54 people be treated as murder, as rescuers threatened by falling debris halted their search for survivors until dawn.

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All search and investigation work was suspended until Sunday morning after a third section of the supermarket’s roof collapsed at 6 p.m. (4 p.m. Manila time) on Saturday without causing any injuries.

Terrifying accounts emerged from survivors of Thursday’s disaster at the Maxima store in the capital Riga, as anger and suspicion mounted over its causes.

“I was queuing at the cash desk when the roof suddenly caved in. It all happened within a few seconds,” said 19-year-old Antons Ryakhin, saying “about 100 people” had been inside with him.

“It was dark but still light enough to see the exit. I ran out. The doors were open, but a lot of rubble fell in front of them—I think that’s why some people couldn’t get through.”

A police spokeswoman said 13 people were still reported missing in connection with the collapse, the Baltic state’s worst disaster since independence in 1991 and Europe’s third deadliest roof catastrophe in 30 years.

But two days on, hope was dwindling that more survivors could be found.

President Andris Berzins told Latvian public television the case “must be treated as the murder of many defenseless people,” demanding it be “investigated at maximum speed.”

Early Saturday, police investigators could be seen sifting through the rubble alongside rescuers at the site where Mayor Nils Usakovs of Riga wants to build a memorial.

But after the third collapse, their work was halted.

“We need to ensure the safety of the rescuers,” said fire chief Okars Abolins. Three firefighters were crushed to death when a second collapse occurred on Thursday.

The Latvian government confirmed that two Russian citizens were among the victims.

AFP

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