Riga Store Collapse Death Toll Close to 40World | November 22, 2013, Friday // 15:27| views
People stand with flowers outside the Maxima supermarket after its roof collapsed, in Riga, Latvia, 22 November 2013. Photo by EPA/BGNES
At least 37 people have died after the roof of a supermarket collapsed in the Latvian capital Riga.
Fears are the death toll will continue to climb as people are still trapped inside.
The BBC cites Latvia's main news agency reporting that the number of deaths makes this the former Soviet republic's worst disaster since independence in 1991.
Three of those killed were emergency workers, who were helping people trapped, when more of the roof came down – 20 minutes after the initial collapse.
The cause of the collapse is unclear although reports, quoted by the BBC, say a garden was being constructed on the roof at the time and the weight of the soil could be a contributing factor.
Rescue efforts continued through the night, involving several hundred firemen, police and emergency medical teams, and might last for another 24 hours.
Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis has announced that a criminal investigation in violating construction norms has begun.
The area has been sealed. The State Blood Transfusion Center has urged Latvians to donate blood for the injured.
The initial collapse happened just before 6 pm local time Thursday, when the store was busy with customers. In addition to the roof, walls and windows of the single-story concrete and glass building also crumbled.
TV footage showed rescue workers using mechanical cutters to clear debris from. Cranes were brought in to remove slabs of concrete. More than 60 soldiers are helping the rescue effort, the army, cited by The BBC, said on its official Twitter feed.
According to witnesses, customers tried to run out, but the supermarket's electronic doors closed, trapping them inside.
The supermarket, which opened in 2011, is part of the Maxima retail chain.
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