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Search for wedding hall survivors ends; owners, contractors arrested

revellers
Amateur video shows revellers on the dance floor, top, then falling as the floor gives way, middle. Bewildered bystanders look into the gaping hole, bottom.  


JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Rescuers called off the search for survivors of a catastrophic building collapse as Israeli authorities arrested the building's owners and builders.

Israeli police said at least 23 people were killed and another 250 were injured in Thursday night's collapse of a crowded wedding reception hall. Rescuers called off the search for survivors Saturday afternoon.

Police have questioned 10 people involved in the building's construction and recent renovation, including the four-story structure's contractors and engineers. They were under arrest, but no formal charges had been filed Saturday afternoon.

Authorities said it was possible a crucial support wall may have been removed in the renovation about three months ago.

Among those arrested was the inventor of a lightweight flooring system widely used in Israel in the 1980s but banned by the government in 1996.

Authorities said it was not clear whether that type of flooring, which has caused structural problems in other buildings, was to blame for Thursday's collapse.

All those who attended the wedding had been accounted for, they said, but it was possible that workers in the building that night could be among those underneath the debris.

Police said it was unclear how many others were still missing, but the smell of decomposing remains at the scene suggested bodies remained buried in the wreckage.

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The collapse of the dance floor happened right in front of a video camera recording the event (Warning: disturbing video) (May 24)

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CNNACCESS: Rescue officials still hope to find wedding hall survivors
 
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Dina Kraft, from The Associated Press, comments on the photographer who captured the video of the incident

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Rescue workers could use heavy equipment only with caution, as unstable concrete slabs still dangled above their heads.

Amateur video from the wedding captured the eerie scene as scores of dancing guests suddenly dropped through the floor. Panicked guests screamed in horror as they peered into the four-story-deep pit that remained.

The bride and groom, Assi and Keren Sror, were both injured. Assi Sror was treated and released after the disaster, but Keren suffered hip and chest injuries which may require surgery, doctors said.

The mother of the groom was among those who plunged through the floor; she was recovering at a hospital.

"It broke three floors down -- one, two ... and three. I feel very, very bad. It was about half an hour until they (the rescuers) come to save us," Aliza Sror said from her hospital bed.

Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said forensic investigators had found nothing inside the building to suggest the collapse was the result of a bomb or terrorist act.

CNN Correspondent Sheila MacVicar contributed to this report.







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