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Wedding hall collapses in Jerusalem; 25 dead, 250 hurt

Rescue workers evacuate occupants from the scene
Rescue workers evacuate occupants from the scene  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A crowded wedding reception hall collapsed Thursday night in Jerusalem, killing at least 25 people and injuring 250, police said.

Hundreds of people were in the building when its roof collapsed onto the top floor of the building, causing the four-story structure to collapse through to its basement, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said.

"This is a major disaster. I don't think we have anything similar in the state of Israel, and certainly not in the city of Jerusalem," he said.

Olmert said "many more" people are trapped in the rubble, but the exact number was unclear. A police commander told CNN between 700 and 1,400 people were attending a wedding reception in the hall.

"We believe that some maybe are still under the wreckage here, and the special units of the army are starting to work in order to move the wreckage in order to rescue all those that are still left here," Olmert said.

Police said the collapse appeared to be caused by a structural failure. Olmert said investigators inside the building had found nothing to suggest the disaster was the result of a bomb or a terrorist act.

CNN's Sheila MacVicar says a structural failure caused a Jerusalem wedding hall to collapse as guests partied inside (May 24)

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A wedding hall collapses in Jerusalem, trapping scores of people inside (May 24)

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"People were flying through the air, the orchestra, the loudspeakers. Everything fell," Efraim Rino, a relative of some of the victims, was quoted by The Associated Press.

At the scene, rescuers with flashlights searched the rubble for survivors. Police brought in welders to cut through steel supports and bring out survivors and victims.

The hall, which hosts other large events such as discos, is in the Talpiot industrial area in southeast Jerusalem. The district is home to a number of nightclubs.

Sara Pinhas, a relative of the groom, told The Associated Press that dancers had lifted the father of the bride on a chair when suddenly he fell.

"Then we felt the whole building collapse, everything fell down. We managed to climb down the side of the building," she said.

The bride was taken to a hospital in downtown Jerusalem. Her father, Tsion Dror, his leg in a cast, told The Associated Press that the bride and groom were not seriously injured.

People attend to the injured after the building's collapsed
People attend to the injured after the building's collapse  

Blood-covered survivors were taken away on stretchers as Israeli Radio broadcast appeals to hospital workers in Jerusalem to come to work immediately and all ambulances in the country to report to the scene. Convoys of ambulances were driving into Jerusalem, sirens blaring.

The scene was chaotic as emergency workers tried to make their way through the crowds. Rescuers searched the rubble with flashlights, digging with their hands amid warnings that the ruins of the reception hall were too unstable to allow heavy machinery to be used.

• The Jerusalem WebSite

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