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2 Still Missing In Rink Collapse

Rescue workers recovered two more bodies Wednesday from the wreckage of a collapsed skating rink in Bavaria, raising the death toll to 13, including at least seven children. Two people are still missing and hopes are slim for finding any survivors.

The bodies were found several hours apart Wednesday after rescue crews and dogs resumed their search of the debris following a lengthy break forced by fears that the wrecked roof – believed to have caved in originally from the weight of 8 inches of snow - could cave in even further.

Crews were able to re-enter the building in the Alpine spa town of Bad Reichenhall a little before 4 a.m.

With two loud cracks, the roof collapsed Monday afternoon after a heavy snowfall with about 50 people inside, including many children enjoying an outing during school vacation.

On Tuesday, one of the collapsed ceiling crossbeams shifted and put pressure on a remaining wall, forcing the rescue workers to clear out for their own safety.

Special cranes were brought in and spent Tuesday night and early Wednesday tearing away pieces of the facade and the remains of the roof. When they had cleared enough debris to make two-fifths of the skating rink accessible, the rescuers re-entered.

Fire official Rudi Zeif pledged Tuesday that "we will continue the search until we have rescued or recovered all the missing."

Asked if any of the missing could still be alive, Zeif noted that earthquake victims have survived for several days.

Pumping warm air into the area was considered, but ruled out because it could melt snow, leaving any survivors wet and colder than before. Rescuers hoped the snow could produce an "igloo effect" that might create relatively warm pockets of air.

Rescuers using dogs, shovels and their hands found a 5-year-old girl with only minor injuries late Monday, but had found no one alive and heard no calls for help since then.

Several hundred people gathered Tuesday for a candlelight vigil at town hall, and church bells pealed for 20 minutes.

Eighteen people were seriously injured in the collapse, which occurred Monday at 4 p.m. just as the rink was about to close for the day. A memorial service was planned for next week.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday expressed her "deep sympathy" for the victims, praising the efforts of rescuers who were in "a race against time" to find survivors.

Prosecutors launched an investigation into possible negligence, an automatic step after a fatal accident.

All the victims came from Bad Reichenhall, a town of 15,000 near the border with Austria, or the surrounding area, and residents asked angry questions about why a public building could not withstand a heavy but predictable snowfall. Experts suggested a structural flaw was a more likely cause than the weight of the snow.

"There's something rotten about this. We've had a lot more snow than this before," retiree Erna Schweiger-Nolte said as she stood outside the police cordon. "The politicians say, 'save, save, save,' but it shouldn't be on the wrong things."

She said it was "well known" that the building, erected in 1972, was in poor shape and leaking.

Suspicions were fueled by news that an official with the town's ice hockey club said he had been told by town authorities 30 minutes before the collapse that a regular practice session for youth players later in the day was canceled because there was a risk of the facility collapsing.

Local officials said there had been a roughly 8-inch layer of snow on the roof, which Mayor Wolfgang Heitmeier said was well within the building's margin of safety. Nonetheless, town officials had planned to close it after the end of the day's free skate because the heavy wet snow was continuing.

Heitmeier said renovations had been discussed, but to the pool and rink equipment, not the structure itself, which was regarded as sound.

Several structural engineers expressed doubt that snow alone was the cause, and said such buildings should be inspected as they age, just as bridges are.

"No one would get on an airplane that wasn't regularly maintained and checked," engineer Carsten Koenke said. And Horst Franke, another engineer, said on N24 television that "it couldn't just have been the snow."

German meteorologists measured nearly 1½ feet of fresh, wet snow Monday in the Bavarian Alps, where Bad Reichenhall is located.