January 28, 2006

Four dead in Polish roof collapse, dozens hurt

By Janusz Chmielewski

CHORZOW, Poland (Reuters) - At least four people were
killed and dozens injured by the collapse of a roof over an
exhibition hall packed with hundreds of people in the small
southern Polish city of Chorzow on Saturday, officials said.

The PAP news agency said firefighters had found at least
four casualties beneath the wreckage, where some 100 people are
reported to be trapped. It was quoting deputy governor of the
Silesia province Artur Warzocha.

At least 50 injured people have been rushed to three
hospitals in the rural mining area around the nearby city of
Katowice, police said.

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

The people in the hall were attending a pigeon show. PAP
news agency said 500-1,000 people might have been in the hall.
National fire brigade spokesman Witold Maziarz told PAP: "There
may be some 100 people under the wreckage."

Pictures from Polish television showed emergency workers
shouting to each other and attempting to rescue people trapped
under the building's 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 stretchers
and lugged heavy metal cutting equipment over snowy ground.

Eighteen fire fighters with six dogs trained to find
victims beneath wreckage have been sent from the neighbouring
province of Malopolska to help in the rescue effort, Malopolska
provincial police spokesman Andrzej Siekanka said.

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.

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.