56 killed in Moscow roof collapse

The rescue search has been called off after the snow-covered roof of a large 24-hour Moscow market collapsed Thursday killing at least 56 people, with more believed to be trapped inside.

"They have stopped the rescue operation," CTV's Ellen Pinchuk reported from the scene. "Emergency workers believe that there are no more people left to save there."

Emergency crews are now focusing on recovering bodies. Officials said 300 people are believed to have been in the building's basement when the roof collapsed.

"They are now turning this away from the idea of rescue and just trying to pull out whoever is left among the bodies under the ruins," Pinchuk said.

Rescuers searched for survivors trapped under the rubble of the Bauman Market in eastern Moscow until late into the evening on Thursday.

The building's roof caved in at 5:45 a.m. local time after an overnight snowfall that is believed to be the contributing factor.

A much larger disaster was probably averted since the collapse happened in the early morning hours and most locals were home because of a Russian national holiday.

Smoke could be seen billowing out of the rubble in mid-afternoon. The Interfax news agency said a fire had broken out after an explosion. Pinchuk said a spark from rescue equipment may have caused the explosion by igniting paint and other chemicals stored in the market.

"That added to the casualty toll and to the difficulty of getting to anyone who may have survived," she said.

Metal cutters and hydraulic lifters are being used to clear away concrete slabs and metal beams. Rescuers also used heat guns to blow warm air into the rubble, to keep victims from freezing.

The generators were turned off in 10 minute increments so that rescue workers could listen for signs of life.

Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Natalya Lukash confirmed the 56 deaths and said that 32 people also suffered injuries.

Sniffer dogs initially indicated that there were survivors beneath the rubble, but hope eventually faded with the rescue search being called off.

Rescue workers did help a man who was trapped under a slab of concrete with only his hand visible. They used an intravenous drip to give him some painkillers and other medication.

Pinchuk also said that there have been unconfirmed reports that someone trapped in the basement called one of his co-workers to say he was drowning, and that water was pouring into the basement.

Most of the vendors inside the market were migrant workers from Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, reports CTV.

I.L.