Roof over Moscow market collapses: 27 killed

The concave, snow-covered roof of a three-decade-old Moscow market collapsed early Thursday, killing at least 21 people and trapping about 10, officials said.

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Rescue workers used metal cutters and hydraulic lifters to clear the ruins of steel and concrete pieces. Workers used pickaxes to cut holes in the wreckage and knelt to call into the holes in search of survivors.

The victims were municipal and market workers. Channel One said they had spent the night in the market, which was not open for retail business. Ekho Moskvy radio reported that there could also have been wholesale buyers in the building.

Some of those under the rubble were alive, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters at the scene. "They're knocking and crying out," he said. At least 24 people were injured.

Trapped survivors were using mobile phones to call their relatives, helping rescuers zero in on their location, said Yuri Akimov, deputy head of the Moscow department of the Emergency Situations Ministry.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who went to the site to oversee rescue efforts, absolutely ruled out terrorism as a possible cause, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

Investigators were looking at three possible causes of the collapse: improper maintenance of the building, a build up of snow and errors in the building's design, Moscow prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev said. A wet snow had fallen for much of the day Wednesday and overnight.

Ekho Moskvy radio said the entire roof, covering an area of about 2,000 square meters (2,400 square yards), had fallen onto the market stalls.

"The main task now is not to let the building collapse further," Akimov said.

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