German prosecutors have launched an investigation into the collapse of the roof of an ice rink in Bavaria on Monday in which at least 14 people died.

The cause of the tragedy had not been established as Building went to press.

The roof, which is understood to have been a flat wide-span structure built with thick laminate wood beams, caved in at 4pm on Monday afternoon under the weight of about 300 mm of snow, just as the rink was closing to the public for the evening.

According to reports, about 50 people were on the ice rink at the time.

A rescue operation started immediately but was hampered by the bad weather conditions and fears that the remaining structure could collapse.

Although no cause has been identified, reports of leaks in the roof, which was built in the early 1970s, have raised the possibility of some sort of rot in the wooden beams.

Questions have also been raised over why children and their parents were still in the ice rink when it collapsed. Officials in Bad Reichenhall, a ski resort, had expressed concern before the disaster over the building’s safety in heavy snow.

An ice-hockey training session had already been cancelled for Monday evening, even though safety checks during the day had shown that the roof’s snow load limit had not been surpassed.

A number of other wide-span roofs collapsed under the snow in the central European Alpine region this week, including a 40-year-old warehouse in Munich, a bowling alley in Salzburg, Austria and a Lidl supermarket in Ostrava in the Czech Republic.