- The Washington Times - Monday, January 2, 2006

From combined dispatches

BAD REICHENHALL, Germany — At least 11 persons, including two children, were killed and more were feared buried yesterday when the roof of an ice rink collapsed under heavy snow in a town in the Bavarian Alps, police said.

Snow killed at least two others in the area when an avalanche struck near Bad Reichenhall, a southern town on the Austrian border.

Officials said about 50 people — including many children enjoying the last day of their school holiday — were in the sports complex when the roof gave way.

“Five bodies have been recovered. Another person was rescued but subsequently died in the hospital. And five more bodies have been seen but not yet recovered,” police spokesman Hubertus Andrae told the Reuters news agency.

Among those confirmed dead were a 12-year-old and a younger child. It was not clear how many people remained trapped under the debris.

German public television reported last night that state prosecutors were examining the collapse to see whether negligence charges should be brought.

Shortly before the roof collapsed, rink operators had canceled a training session for a local hockey team, but permitted the public session to proceed.

The rescue efforts were a race against time because some victims likely were pressed against the ice and at risk of hypothermia, said a spokesman for the private aid group Malteser, which sent staff to counsel victims’ families.

The fire brigade used cranes to lift remaining sections of the roof to allow better access in the search for survivors. About 300 rescue workers, including staff from the nearby Austrian city of Salzburg, were on the scene as a blizzard hampered relief efforts.

The poor weather led authorities in the Berchtesgaden region to issue a general disaster warning. Traffic was snarled throughout the region, impeding the arrival of rescue teams to Bad Reichenhall.

The roof of the rink, built in the 1970s, caved in about 3 p.m. It was not clear what had led to the collapse in a region accustomed to heavy snowfall in the winter.

Ten persons reportedly were caught in the avalanche in the Reiteralm range of the Alps, but seven were able to free themselves, police said.

Two members of the group were found dead, and rescue teams were searching for the third.

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