Archive for Friday, May 25, 2001

Dozens killed when Israeli building falls

May 25, 2001


— A three-story wedding hall where hundreds of people were dancing collapsed Thursday night, killing at least 25, officials said. Another 300 others were said to be injured in what appeared to be an accident, not a terror attack.

Rescuers worked feverishly through the night to reach dozens of people remained trapped under huge concrete slabs and metal wreckage. The ceremony at the Versailles wedding hall had ended and guests were dancing when the building collapsed, witnesses said. About 650 people were inside.

"People were flying through the air, the orchestra, the loudspeakers, everything fell," said Efraim Rino, his voice choking as he told Israel television that some of the victims were his relatives.

Jerusalem police commander Miki Levy said it was "absolutely not" a terrorist attack. He said the collapse was due to a "structural failure." Among the emergency crews was a special Israeli army rescue unit that has been sent abroad in the past to dig out earthquake victims.

The wedding was taking place on the top floor of a building in an industrial area of the city, alongside several other middle-class wedding halls. The other two floors were not being used, Levy said.

One guest said the wedding blessings had just been completed and the dancing had begun when the floor caved in. Israeli weddings are typically conducted at large halls, where relatives and guests eat and dance after the ceremony.

The center of the top floor collapsed suddenly, witnesses said, sending the concrete crashing through the floors below.

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