The Polish government ordered the temporary closure of some large buildings Monday after the roof collapse of an exhibition hall in the southern city of Chorzow that killed 62 people. On Monday afternoon, authorities lowered the toll in the tragedy at an international racing pigeon show by five to 62, without explanation.
The fire brigade and police said the weight of snow on the roof of the six-year-old building caused the collapse, but representatives of the building's co-owner and operator Expomedia said the roof had been cleared regularly."We want the closure of all such large buildings when a large amount of snow has built up, experts are working to determine the level that is safe," Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz told public radio.
CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney said the site of the International Exhibition Hall, on the border of the city of Katowice and Chorzow, was now being treated as a crime scene.Authorities were turning their attention Monday to demolishing the rest of the building. As anxious relatives and friends awaited news of their loved ones, lists were posted of the survivors, the injured and the dead.
Some people in search of missing friends or relatives did not find the name they were seeking on any of the lists.
One woman said she did not know the fate of her husband, but feared the worst. "I hope I will find my husband dead or alive, probably dead," she said. The president of Poland, President Lech Kaczynski, who visited the injured, has declared a national period of mourning until Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear how many buildings, mostly exhibition halls and flat-roofed hypermarkets, would be shut after Monday's announcement.British retail chain Tesco had to close one of its stores in the town of Bytom which, like Chorzow, is part of the Silesian industrial heartland hit by heavy snow in the past few weeks.
"Right now they are clearing the roof of snow, I am not yet sure when we will re-open," Katarzyna Zdrowiecka, a manager at the store in Bytom, told Reuters.The collapsed exhibition center was owned by local company Miedzynarodowe Targi Katowickie (MTK), which is 51 percent controlled by Expocentres Eastern Europe Limited, a subsidiary of Britain's Expomedia Group, Reuters reported. MTK's other investors include The City of Katowice and the Polish Treasury. Shares in Expomedia shed a quarter of their value in early trading in London on Monday. Polish government officials told Reuters that during a boom in the construction of commercial buildings in Poland in the past decade, designs from warmer climate countries such as Britain and Spain had been used, raising concern about their structural safety when snow builds up on rooftops.
Witnesses said the roof on the Chorzow exhibition hall collapsed within seconds, giving no warning to the hundreds of people below.Officials said seven foreigners were killed, with one German, one Belgian and one Dutch citizen among them. Nearly 140 people were injured, with about 80 in hospital for treatment.
About 500 people were in the building when its roof collapsed. The last person rescued alive was pulled out less than five hours later as temperatures plunged far below zero. About 160 people were injured.Grzegorz Slyszyk, a lawyer for the building's owners, told The Associated Press that snow had been cleared regularly from the roof. He said they had heard from a Belgian witness that the floor collapsed before the roof did -- raising the possibility of subsidence.
Other potential causes to be investigated include whether faulty building materials were used when the hall was constructed in 2000, and how they reacted to the contrast between bitterly cold temperatures outside and the heated interior, Slyszyk added, reports CNN. I.L.
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