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Roof collapse: 'No more survivors'

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Poland

KATOWICE, Poland (CNN) -- Emergency workers shifted their efforts from rescue to recovery Sunday at the site of an exhibition center that's roof collapsed over the weekend in southern Poland, killing 66 people, after officials determined it unlikely that anyone else would be found alive.

Rescuers worked through the night in sub-zero temperatures after the roof caved in during a national racing-pigeon exposition Saturday evening, but most of the survivors were pulled out in the first few hours, officials said.

Krzysztof Mejer, a spokesman for the Silesian regional government, said Sunday night it was unlikely that anyone else would be found alive in the rubble of the International Exhibition Hall, on the border of the city of Katowice and the suburb of Chorzow.

As anxious relatives and friends awaited news of their loved ones, lists were posted of the survivors, the injured and the dead.

Some people in search of missing friends or relatives did not find the name they were seeking on any of the lists.

One woman said she did not know the fate of her husband, but feared the worst. "I hope I will find my husband dead or alive, probably dead," she said.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who visited the injured, declared a national period of mourning through mid-week.

"Now we have to ask ourselves the question -- whether this type of roof should be built in Poland," he said.

As of Sunday night, 91 people remained hospitalized; 78 others had been discharged, an official said.

Of the dead, 48 bodies were identified. Among the fatalities were a Belgian, a German, a Slovak and two or three Czechs, he said.

In Katowice, Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz told reporters he had received offers of assistance from other nations.

"First from Israel and Germany and then from practically all over the world," he said.

"We are very grateful and we would like to thank them for their offers of help and words of solidarity, in what is one of the biggest tragedies for our nation and Europe."

The collapse occurred during the annual three-day National Exhibition of Racing Pigeons.

The event is attended by thousands of people, including families, breeders and exhibitors from Poland and other nations. About 500 people were believed to be inside the center at 5 p.m., when the catastrophic failure occurred.

A heated tent was set up near the rescue site, and heavy equipment was brought in to help stabilize the building's beams during the search. (Watch rescuers race against the cold -- 1:51)

Among the piles of mangled steel beams and walls that littered the site were cages of live pigeons.

Among the injured was Francis Nolmans, a Belgian who works for a company that was exhibiting a device for pigeons. He said he escaped injury by jumping inside a hollow support column that was located near his booth.

"I heard glass breaking," he told a reporter. "I saw the roof coming towards me like a wave ... it was over in 10 seconds." After he crawled out, he led rescuers to his coworkers, none of whom was badly hurt.

The cause of the disaster was undetermined, but Jerzy Polaczeg, Poland's minister of buildings and roads, said deep snow on the roof likely caused it to collapse.

"We all saw that this layer of snow and ice was too deep. This is probably where we should look to find the main reason for this tragedy. It is a pity that nobody did something about that before," he said.

In addition, vibrations from blaring music and a big difference in temperature between the heated center's interior and the bitter cold outside were all cited as possible culprits. Temperatures in Poland dipped in recent days to minus 25 Celsius (minus 13 F).

The toll could have been worse: most of the 2,000 to 4,000 people who had been in the exhibition hall two hours before the collapse had departed, Nolmans said.

Earlier this month, heavy snow caused the roof of a German ice skating rink to collapse, killing 15 people.

CNN's Agnes Pawlowski and Journalist Bruce Konviser contributed to this report

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