Latvia began three days of mourning for at least 54 people killed when a supermarket roof collapsed in Riga, as authorities searched for more victims and probed the country’s worst accident since it won independence in 1991.
President Andris Berzins called the incident “the murder of a huge number of unprotected people.” The police have received information about 10 more people who may be under the debris, Riga Police Chief Ints Kuzis said today. Viktorija Sembele, a spokeswoman for the fire and rescue services, said 54 deaths have been confirmed so far.
No one was hurt when another section of the roof of the Maxima XX store collapsed today, the second time since the initial Nov. 21 incident, said Sembele. Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis said today a criminal investigation has been opened, and police are questioning witnesses and consulting academic experts.
Maxima Group, the biggest retailer in the Baltic states, said it rents the site in the capital’s Zolitude district and wasn’t involved with construction work taking place on the roof and in the underground parking area at the time. It rents the premises from a company called SIA Tinio.
Kozlovskis said the probe will consider whether construction regulations were broken and whether the work done on the roof prompted the collapse.
“The task of the Latvian police will be to find out who is guilty, but at the same time I think that the specialists in this field, obviously after this tragedy, will have to come to a conclusion and fix the supervision,” Kozlovskis said.
The companies involved in the construction of the supermarket, comprising SIA Re&Re, SIA CMConsulting, SIA Kubs, SIA HND Grupa and Homburg Group, said they would jointly determine what caused the roof’s collapse.
They will “conduct a comprehensive study of the circumstances that led to the tragic events in Zolitude and to provide answers to the public about the true causes of the disaster as soon as possible,” according to an e-mailed statement from the companies.
Latvia’s period of mourning will include three minutes of silence on Nov. 25. Sixteen children lost at least one parent in the disaster and three children lost both parents, Laila Rieksta Riekstina, director of the state inspectorate of children’s rights, said on Latvijas Radio today.
The roof collapsed after an alarm designed to detect fire, smoke and dust rang repeatedly in the basement where a parking area was under construction, Maxima said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Maxima runs 499 supermarkets in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria and Poland.