Estonian President Extends Condolences in Wake of Riga Store Collapse Tragedy
The Estonian president and other top officials have extended their condolences to Latvia after the roof of a Riga supermarket collapsed yesterday, leaving what is now believed to be over 40 dead.
"I am in mourning with the Latvian people and bow my head in memory of the victims," President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said in a letter to Latvian President Andris Bērziņš.
"Our thoughts are with the Latvian people in this sad time," he said.
Among those killed were three rescue workers who entered the building before a collapse of a second section.
As of this afternoon, Diena.lv reported 43 dead and scores injured. The death toll rose sharply after the discovery this morning of a second retail area buried under rubble. The incident happened in the evening during peak shopping time. Diena said it is still not known how many people might still be under the debris.
According to uudised.err.ee, there are three versions of what could happened. One is that landscaping was being done on the roof of the building in an outlying district of Riga, and a one-foot layer of sand and dirt which had become waterlogged proved too much. Also according to ERR, the same company building the terrace, Re & Re, was renovating the Riga Castle in the summer when an extensive fire broke out, destroying most of the historic building.
Located in Riga's Zolitūde district, the store was part of the Maxima grocery chain and also housed a bank branch, cosmetics outlet and pet store. The entire 500 square meters of the building's roof caved in. The worst hit were the cashier queues, and a wall crashed down a few minutes later, killing three rescuers, said uudised.err.ee.
Tragically, security guards ignored an alarm that went off at 16:00, warning that the rooftop was being overburdened with weight, and did not evacuate the building. Less than an hour later, the roof fell in.
All of Riga's major hospitals are aiding the injured victims. Rescuers arrived to the scene from 180 kilometers away in Limbaži.
A criminal investigation was opened on building code violations.