Seven firefighters killed

Rescue workers had difficulty getting to the trapped firemen RTS

Seven firemen have died while fighting a fire in an underground car park in the town of Gretzenbach in northwestern Switzerland.

This content was published on November 27, 2004 - 20:05

Rescue workers pulled the bodies from the wreckage on Saturday. The firefighters had been trapped when the ceiling collapsed.

It was the worst firefighting tragedy in recent Swiss history.

The volunteer firefighters were part of a group of about 11 who entered the garage at the apartment complex early on Saturday.

Police officials said three of the firefighters were able to free themselves and a fourth was rescued and hospitalised suffering from smoke inhalation.

Officials first reported five dead, but the bodies of two missing firefighters were pulled from the rubble shortly before midnight.

Swiss President Joseph Deiss, speaking on behalf of the government, gave his condolences to the families of the victims.

The garage was under a playground at an apartment complex. The collapse left a crater three metres deep and 30 metres wide.

Rescuers were hampered because they had to use heavy equipment to remove soil and grass that had been on top of the concrete roof. Only then could they tackle the tightly compacted rubble beneath.

The fire is believed to have started in a car parked in the garage. Officials said they did not know whether structural faults had led to the collapse of the ceiling.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

A total of 37 firemen have died in Switzerland since 1985.
2004: 7 firefighters die after the concrete roof of an underground garage collapses.
1996: 3 firemen killed in a blaze at a paper mill; 3 others lose their lives in seperate incidents.

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