LATEST: 54 dead, dozens injured after shopping center collapses in Riga

  • 2013-11-22
  • By Rayyan Sabet-Parry, RIGA

A shopping center collapses on shoppers sparking a major rescue mission (photo by Rayyan Sabet-Parry)

Fifty-four people are now confirmed dead with dozens more injured after a shopping center roof collapsed in Riga on Thursday evening, Nov. 21.

Emergency services were called to the Zolitudes Maxima shopping center at around 18:00 after the roof of the building collapsed onto shoppers below.

Police say a winter garden was being constructed on the roof and may have been the cause of the collapse, although investigations are ongoing. 

Among the  the dead are three firefighters, said emergency services. Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs says around 25 people are still trapped under the rubble. Many more have been injured and hospitalized, reports LETA.

The Riga supermarket tragedy has become the largest loss of life in an accident in the country since the restoration of independence.

Emergency services are at the scene rescuing survivors from the rubble whilst a makeshift hospital tent has been also set up to treat the injured. 

Huge cranes could also be seen lifting up pieces of the collapsed building. Emergency services added that most of the victims of the tragedy were aged between 25-40 years old.

Thousands visited the collapse scene on Nov. 23 to pay their respects to the victims. They laid flowers, candles and messages of support.

A Maxima employee who declined to give his name said three friends were in the store when it collapsed.

"I was just speaking with them yesterday, and now they're gone," he said.

"I can't believe it."

Larissa, a local resident whose flat overlooks the shopping center said she couldn't believe the scenes. "It's terrible. Who would've thought this could happen. This is a time when people finish work, so there are many people in there. I don't believe it. Even when I look at it now, I can't believe it."

Others waited anxiously for news of friends or relatives who may have been trapped in the rubble.

Meanwhile, The Maxima supermarket chain said it will carry out inspections of every one of its stores in Latvia. The company also intends to pay out compensation to all, the head of 'Maxima Latvija' Gintaras Jasinskas said.

More to follow.