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Little hope for 2 men trapped in rubble

GERMAN officials said yesterday that they believe two men remain buried in the rubble of Cologne's collapsed archive building and surrounding houses and fear that rescue efforts to reach them may not be fast enough.

City official Guido Kahlen said that some 120 workers were at the scene in downtown Cologne, several blocks away from the famed Cologne Cathedral, where the building housing the city's main archives collapsed on Tuesday after a crater opened up in the ground beneath it. Two other neighboring apartment buildings were partially destroyed.

The archive material stored in the building is insured for 400 million euros (US$504.6 million), said Georg Quander, responsible for the city's cultural affairs. The city has documents spanning centuries, including manuscripts by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and documents related to German Nobel laureate Heinrich Boll.

Part of the back of the archive building, where many of the most valuable, unique documents were held, remains intact, however, and Quander expressed hope that most of the rest of the collection could be recovered relatively undamaged from beneath the rubble.

He said groundwater posed the greatest threat.

Cologne Fire Chief Stephan Neuhoff said rescue efforts were proceeding slowly because the ground at the site was too unstable to support the heavy equipment needed to begin clearing the rubble.

"The likelihood that we will pull people alive from the rubble is close to zero," Neuhoff said.

Police believe they have identified the missing as two men, who lived in separate top-floor apartments of one of the neighboring buildings.


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