Rescue workers among six dead in Latvian supermarket collapse

The scene overnight in front of the collapsed supermarket
The scene overnight in front of the collapsed supermarket

Six people including two rescue workers were killed and 35 others injured on Thursday when the roof of a supermarket collapsed in a suburb of Latvia’s capital Riga, emergency services confirmed.

“Rescue efforts will continue through the night but it’s too early to name a cause or say whether there will be more victims or survivors,” emergency services spokeswoman Viktorija Sembele told AFP.

Two firefighters working at the scene to rescue trapped shoppers were among the six dead, she said, but was not able to immediately provide information about the age or sex of other victims.

Soon after midnight two people were pulled alive from the rubble, raising hopes that more survivors would be found.

Visiting the scene while rescue efforts continued, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis confirmed that police had launched a criminal investigation to determine the cause of the roof collapse and said he would be holding an emergency meeting Friday morning.

Mayor Nils Usakovs announced he was cancelling leave and was also calling an emergency meeting of municipal and rescue services for Friday.

“As soon as rescue work has finished, construction experts will investigate the causes,” said a press release from his office.

Up to 13 emergency brigades and 17 ambulance teams were working at the site late Thursday with support from military personnel.

Run by the Lithuanian-owned Maxima chain — Latvia’s number two retailer after Rimi — the supermarket was built in 2011 and was nominated for an architectural award, according to local media reports, which also said it had recently been under renovation.

Maxima published a statement on its website overnight saying the company was “overwhelmed and shocked” by the disaster but that it was not yet aware of the cause and was providing “all the information at our disposal” to the authorities. – AFP