At least 13 dead as pool roof collapses

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The Independent Online

At least 13 people died, nearly 100 were injured and many others trapped when a giant glass roof covering a water park collapsed in Moscow last night. Emergency service officials feared the number of dead could rise as those trapped were exposed to temperatures nearing -20C.

At least 13 people died, nearly 100 were injured and many others trapped when a giant glass roof covering a water park collapsed in Moscow last night. Emergency service officials feared the number of dead could rise as those trapped were exposed to temperatures nearing -20C.

As midnight approached, rescuers reported that voices could still be heard from under the rubble. Clouds of steam billowed up from the site and rescuers used heating machines to pump warm air into the complex to prevent the water from freezing around those still stuck.

The collapse happened at around 7.30pm at the Transvaal water park, a five-storey leisure centre in south-west Moscow. There were around 1,300 people in the complex, and more than 400 in the pool area, all basking in its heat while temperatures outside hovered around -15C.

An eyewitness told Russia's Channel One television: "Suddenly, there was a loud noise. Everybody started to run. All of the roof over the zone of water collapsed." Panicking swimmers, some in bathing suits, rushed outside into below freezing temperatures. Roman Yazymin, 29, was sun-tanning in a solarium on the upper floors of the complex when he heard a loud noise and the crash of shattering glass. "It wasn't an explosion, but the noise of metal collapsing," he said. "Everything was covered in blood."

Scores of people, many of them children, were rushed to hospital with fractures, concussion and bruises. The latest casualty reports said that three children were among those who died.

The water park is one of several new entertainment facilities that have opened over the past couple of years on the city's outskirts. It includes a large pool, an artificial river and a lengthy water slide. Initial reports of the cause of the collapse being terrorism were swiftly discounted, and emergency service officials said that the building's roof had caved in under the weight of several days' heavy snow falls.

Moscow district prosecutor, Anatoly Zuyev, said later that the accident resulted from "shortcomings in construction or shortcomings in technical maintenance". He immediately opened a criminal investigation into negligence leading to deaths, to see if local government officials and the owners of the park should be held responsible.

Moscow has been extra vigilant since a bomb blast on the underground railway on 6 February, which killed 41 people and wounded more than 100. President Putin blamed Chechen rebels for that attack.

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