RIGA, Latvia (AP) -- Hordes of shoppers were picking up food after work in the Latvian capital when an enormous section of the supermarket's roof caved in. Firefighters rushed in to save them, only to be crushed themselves when a second part of the roof collapsed.
The death toll from the rush-hour disaster Thursday evening at the Maxima supermarket in Riga rose to 45 on Friday, including three firefighters, police said. Spokesman Toms Sadovskisk said the death toll is expected to go even higher, and nine of the dead were still unidentified.
Another 35 people were injured, 28 of them hospitalized, including 10 firefighters struck just as they entered the unstable building, the Fire and Rescue Service said.
It was the largest tragedy for the Baltic state since it regained independence in 1991. Latvia's government declared three days of mourning starting Saturday.
The rescue agency could not say how many people might be trapped under the rubble in the densely populated, working-class neighborhood between downtown Riga and the city's airport.
The reason for the collapse was still not known, but rescue and police officials said workers had been building a garden on the roof as part of the supermarket's original design.
An enormous crater-like hole gaped in the supermarket's roof, while building materials were still stacked on the remaining sections of the roof.
Rescue workers kept up their round-the-clock search for possible survivors Friday, periodically turning off all equipment and asking the relatives of missing people to call so they could pinpoint ringing phones. Dozens of firefighters carefully sifted through the rubble.
Rescue agency spokeswoman Viktorija Sembele said the search for survivors was proceeding slowly, since both the rubble and the remaining sections of the roof were fragile and could easily collapse further if the wrong piece was moved.
About 500 square meters (5,300 square feet) of the roof collapsed, the rescue service estimated, destroying large sections of the store's high walls and nearly all its front windows.
Several large construction cranes gingerly hauled metal slabs and other debris from its central gaping hole Friday, while bulldozers cleared paths into the store. Sembele said approximately one-third of the rubble still needed to be removed.
The building was completed in November 2011. The Lithuania-owned Maxima was reportedly renting the space.
Maxima officials refused to comment, saying they would release a statement later.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Pope Francis baptized 10 people Saturday and urged them to bring their faith "to the ends of the Earth" as he presided over an…
Divers have recovered 10 more bodies from inside the ferry that sank off South Korea. The confirmed death toll is now 46.
The dark hall inside Christianity's holiest shrine was illuminated with the flames from thousands of candles on Saturday as worshippers…
The rescuers moved quickly, just minutes after the first block of ice tore loose from Mount Everest and started an avalanche that roared…
After beginning her crusade in 2011, Charlotte van den Berg has possibly won a battle for Jewish Holocaust survivors against Amsterdam. The…
A robotic submarine looking for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet is expected to finish searching a patch of the Indian Ocean seabed within a…
Pope Francis is presiding over a torch-lit Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum marking Good Friday in Rome.
Prosecutors say they've asked a court to issue an arrest warrant for the captain of the South Korean ferry that sank two days ago,…
Christians in the Holy Land are commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Good Friday prayers and processions through Jerusalem's…
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge take a royal trip to New Zealand and…