Latvia to Scour Collapsed Supermarket for Victims and Evidence

Latvian rescue workers began to tear down unsafe parts of a supermarket roof, the collapse of which three days ago killed 54 people, so the search for victims and for clues about the disaster’s cause can continue.

Sections of the Maxima XX grocery store’s roof are being dismantled after another part of it caved in yesterday, Daiga Holma, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry, said by telephone. Three rescuers died when another section fell on Nov. 21, the day of the calamity in Riga’s Zolitude district.

Police today published the names of the 54 victims at the store. It’s the biggest loss of life from a single event since the nation regained independence in 1991. Police have begun a criminal investigation into the incident and said that about seven people remain unaccounted for, though they may not be in the debris.

The building collapse is equivalent to “the murder of a huge number of unprotected people,” President Andris Berzins said on Latvian Television yesterday.

A criminal investigation has been opened and police are questioning witnesses and consulting with experts, Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis said yesterday.

Two Russian citizens and one Armenian citizen were among the dead, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said on his twitter account. Sixteen children lost at least one parent in the collapse, and three children lost both, Laila Rieksta Riekstina, director of the state inspectorate of children’s rights, said on Latvijas Radio yesterday.

Maxima will pay the average wage each month to children that lost a parent in the accident until the age of 18, the company said in a statement last night. Average pay is 500 lati ($965), Maxima said.

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 two days ago. The company operates about 500 supermarkets in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria and Poland.

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