By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
RIGA, LATVIA (BosNewsLife)– Christians in Latvia remembered on Sunday, November 24, dozens of people who were killed in Thursday’s supermarket collapse. At least 54 people died and seven others remain missing in a tragedy the country’s President Andris Berzins has called “murder”.
Church services were held across the Baltic nation, while police began investigating whether failures of design or construction may have caused the roof to collapse at the Maxima supermarket in the capital Riga.
Prime Minister announced three days of mourning. Rescue workers continued to search for survivors beneath the rubble of what was the famed Maxima supermarket. Yet for dozens of shoppers help came too late – they died in the collapse of the supermarket’s roof. Several fire fighters who were involved in the rescue effort also died when they were caught up in a secondary collapse. Dozens of people are injured.
Debris and shattered glass has piled outside the metal and glass building. For those still awaiting news of their loved once, the search and rescue operation is a nerve wracking experience. “My wife is in there,” an anxious man said. “There is no information about her, whether she is dead or alive. Wherever I call, there is no information.”
Rescue workers say an unknown number of people still lie buried beneath the debris. They have been searching for them through the wreckage with dogs, but found very few signs of life. The supermarket was packed with end-of-day shoppers when it collapsed and many of the victims were locals.
Investigators say the supermarket became a death trap when workers began installing a children’s playground on the roof. Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs said in a statement that large bags of construction materials and soil were left on a weak spot on the roof and could have caused the collapse.
Prime Minister Dombrovskis, who visited the scene, announced a criminal investigation. “The police has started an investigation into possible construction violations, which may have caused serious consequences,” he said. However, local officials have also blamed government budget cuts for a lack of construction controls.
The supermarket was once viewed as a place where high-rise residents could step out of their homes, stroll along a shady garden and pick up a couple of items for dinner.
Thursday’s roof collapse has been called “the largest tragedy” for the small Baltic state since it regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Latvia’s government has declared three days of mourning starting Saturday, November 23.
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals from especially, but not limited to, (ex)Communist nations and other autocratically ruled states).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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