German archive building collapses

14:00, 04 March 2009
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The city`s archive building...

Rescue workers are searching for three people believed to be missing after a building collapsed in the German city of Cologne, officials have said, according to BBC.

Six other people initially also thought to be missing have contacted city officials, police said.

The city`s archive building collapsed at about 1400 local time (1300 GMT), bringing down two other buildings.

Cracks and groaning noises alerted staff and visitors at the archive, all of whom escaped before it collapsed.

`Spreading cracks`

More than 200 rescue workers have been sent to the scene with sniffer dogs to look for those thought to be missing.

"It looks like an earthquake," one police officer said.

One witness said the scene resembled a Hollywood movie as cracks slowly spread up the building`s facade before it collapsed in a cloud of dust.

It is not yet clear what caused the buildings to collapse, officials said. Speculation has centred on nearby tunnelling for an underground railway but the company involved said no work was taking place underneath the archive.

"There was no work taking place directly underneath the building," Nord-Sued spokesman Gudrun Meyer told German television station NTV.

"I am not aware of any work occurring at the moment that could have caused this."

Authorities in Cologne have evacuated buildings within a 150-metre radius around the site, including two schools and a retirement home housing 76 people.

The archive building dated from the 1970s and contained 65,000 original documents, some of them dating back more than 1,000 years.

There has been no word on the condition of the archive`s collection, which includes manuscripts by Communist philosophers Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels and items left to the city by figures such as Nobel Prize-winning author Heinrich Boell.

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