January 28, 2006

At least 50 injured in Polish hall roof collapse

By Janusz Chmielewski

CHORZOW, Poland (Reuters) - At least 50 people were injured
when the snow-laden roof of an exhibition hall with hundreds of
people inside collapsed in the southern Polish city of Chorzow
on Saturday, police said.

Police spokesman Andrzej Gaska said at least 50 people have
been rushed to three area hospitals but there have been no
fatalities so far.

"The injured are being rushed to hospital by ambulance,
police car and fire-brigade vehicles," he said. "There has been
no sign of any fatalities."

Those in the hall were attending a pigeon show. PAP news
agency said 500-1,000 people might have been in the hall.

"The roof of the exhibition center in Chorzow collapsed
under the weight of snow and several hundred people are
believed to be inside," another police spokesman Piotr Bieniak
told Reuters by telephone.

Pictures from Polish television showed emergency workers
shouting to each other and attempting to rescue people trapped
under a collapsed corrugated metal roof. Pigeons escaped from
broken cages walked around in the wreckage.

Outside the building dozens of stunned people milled around
at night beside ambulances, some helping the injured into
emergency vehicles while others clutched bandaged or bleeding
heads. Rescue workers carried the worst injured on litters and
lugged heavy metal cutting equipment over snowy ground.

Earlier this month, 15 people died at an ice skating rink
in the town of Bad Reichenhall in southern Germany when a
34-year-old roof collapsed under the weight of fallen snow. All
but three of the dead were children.

Czech rescue officials said a woman was injured the same
week when the roof of a supermarket collapsed under the weight
of snow.

Poland is experiencing its coldest winter in several
decades. The death toll from a cold snap this winter stood at
199 on Saturday but was expected to top 200 over the weekend.

A cold snap has knocked temperatures to as low as minus 30
degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) in parts of Europe.

The freeze has killed the poor and vulnerable across the
region, disrupted transport, highlighted gas supply problems
and frozen parts of the Black Sea.