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50 dead in Moscow market roof collapse, rescue operation completed

By Staff
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Moscow, Feb 23 (UNI) The death toll in Basmanny market accident, where a snow-covered roof collapsed on the shoppers here today, has gone upto 50 with 29 others injured.

The spokesperson of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry Irina Andrianova told Itar-Tass news agency that the rescue operation on the site, located in the centre of Moscow, had been completed.

At a ceremony marking Motherland's Defender Day, President Vladimir Putin called for a ''painstaking investigation'' to pin down why the building, built in the 1970s, collapsed.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said that the main version of the tragedy was that the market dome-shaped roof collapsed under the weight of the snow.

''The first version is that the market building collapsed under the weight of snow on its roof,'' Mr Luzhkov told reporters, adding that it was necessary to study other versions ''in order to rule out a possibility of a terrorist act or other willful actions.'' The architect of the market building, Nodar Kancheli, said in a radio interview that its flat roof had not been designed to bear a heavy load of snow.

''It seems there was a lot of snow and nobody removed it,'' Mr Kancheli was quoted by the agency as saying. ''Nobody was allowed to get on to the roof to clear it off,'' he added.

Earlier in the day, about 500 rescue officers were working at the site. Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, who was personally supervising the rescue operation said that several people were spotted under the debris and contact established with them.

''They knocked, called back, and rescuers are now driving to victims,'' Mr Shoigu told Russian television stations.

UNI XC HS RAI2358

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