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Polish Roof Collapse Kills at Least Four

January 28, 2006

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ The snow-covered roof of a trade hall in southern Poland collapsed Saturday with as many as 500 people inside for a racing pigeon exhibition, and authorities said at least four people were killed and at least 40 injured.

Polish television TVN24 showed firefighters pulling people from beneath the twisted metal wreckage and using jacks to stabilize the building’s beams. The streets of Katowice, about 200 miles south of Warsaw, were lined with rescue vehicles.

Katowice fire brigade spokesman Jaroslaw Wojtasik said at least four people were killed.

``Rescuers are reaching people that are trapped and alive, and, unfortunately, they are also reaching some that are dead,″ he said.

Hundreds of firefighters were responding to the scene, as were search-and-rescue team with dogs and local miner rescue teams, he said.

Katowice police spokesman Janusz Jonczyk said the weight of the snow likely caused the roof to cave in at 5:30 p.m., about 90 minutes before the ``Pigeon 2006″ fair was scheduled to close.

``There could be even up to 500 people inside,″ Jonczyk said. ``We have no number of victims right now.″

The fair included more than 120 exhibitors, including groups from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine and Poland, according to the fair’s Web site. The Jan. 27-29 event was expecting some 55,000 guests, customers and visitors.

A spokeswoman for the fair did not answer her phone.

About 40 people were taken to the hospital. The injured were primarily listed in critical and serious condition, said Bozena Ferdyn, spokesman for Katowice hospitals.

``Hospitals are making preparations to take in more of the injured,″ Jonczyk said.

Janina Waluga, spokeswoman for the hospital in nearby Sieminowice, said the 11 victims being treated at her facility included two Germans and two Czechs.

Katowice, which is in a mining region, has been hit with the heavy snow plaguing much of eastern and central Europe this winter.

On Friday, the roof of a town hall in the southern Austrian village of Mariazell collapsed under snow. No injuries were reported.

On Jan. 2 in the German Alpine spa town of Bad Reichenhall, the snow-covered roof of a skating rink collapsed, killing 15 people, including 12 children.

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