13th victim found at German ice rink

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The Independent Online

Rescue workers recovered a 13th body today from the wreckage of a collapsed skating rink in southern Germany, and said there were no further signs of life as they continued their search for the two remaining people believed still under the wreckage.

Police official Hubertus Andrae said the body was that of a boy, but didn't give an age. "The other two people have not been able to be located yet," said Andrae. "There have been no signs of life."

Hopes were fading of finding survivors from Monday's accident at the end of a second night of snow and freezing temperatures. Rescuers digging laboriously with hands and shovels found a 5-year-old girl with only minor injuries Monday night, but no other survivors since.

A 40-year-old woman and a girl, who police say are not related, remain missing. Eight children were among those already confirmed dead.

The roof collapsed after heavy snowfall on Monday afternoon when about 50 people were inside, including many children on Christmas break from school.

Rescue efforts had to be halted yesterday after a collapsed ceiling's crossbeams shifted and put pressure on a remaining wall, leading to fears that the steeply tilted roof could collapse further.

Special cranes were brought in to clear the way, and workers spent the night tearing away pieces of the facade and the remains of the roof. The search crews were only able to enter the building a little before 4am.

Rescuers hoped the snow could produce an "igloo effect" that might create relatively warm pockets of air.

Several hundred people gathered yesterday for a candlelight vigil at the town hall, and church bells pealed for 20 minutes.

Prosecutors launched an investigation for possible negligence, an automatic step after a fatal accident.

All the victims came from the area around Bad Reichenhall, a town of 15,000 inhabitants on the Austrian border. People in the town questioned why a public building could not withstand a heavy but predictable snowfall.

Experts suggested a structural flaw was a more likely cause than the heavy snow that fell on Monday. City officials said they had measured the snow on the roof and it was still well within the building's margin of safety.

Nonetheless, town officials had planned to close it after the end of the day's public skating because the snow was continuing.

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