Apartment block blast kills three in Russian Federation

Arturo Kim
January 1, 2019

The blast is thought to have been caused by a gas leak and damaged 48 apartments in a nine-storey building in Magnitogorsk, an industrial city in the Urals some 1700km east of Moscow, the emergencies ministry said.

The Soviet-era block was home to around 1,100 people. The overnight forecast indicated temperatures could plunge to minus 24C overnight.

Emergency workers at the scene of an apartment building in Magnitogorsk, Russia, after an explosion on December 31, 2018. At the moment, the fate of 35 people remains unknown.

The regional governor Boris Dubrovsky announced a day of mourning on January 2, with flags lowered and entertainment events cancelled, as the disaster toll set a sombre mood in Russian Federation, where New Year's Eve celebrations are the biggest annual festivities.

State TV showed rescue workers combing through mangled heaps of concrete and metal in temperatures of -18 Celsius, but Russian officials acknowledged that the odds of finding anyone alive looked increasingly slim.

Cutting short his trip to Sochi, President Vladimir Putin arrived on the scene of the devastating gas blast in the city of Magnitogorsk, where rescuers are working against time to pull the trapped people from under debris in -20C.

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Witnesses told Russian television that the explosion was strong enough to shatter the windows of nearby buildings.

"We were sleeping and I woke up feeling I was falling down", she said. Residents of some sections were evacuated as a precaution. "The walls were gone. My mother was screaming that she couldn't breathe and my son was screaming from another corner".

Emergencies Minister Yevgeny Zinichev said at a meeting with Putin there were "presumably between 36 and 40 people under the rubble" as of Monday evening, agencies reported.

Dubrovsky, the local governor, said authorities planned to buy apartments for people who had lost their homes.

Investigators opened a criminal probe into the accident, with the FSB security service confirming the blast had been the result of a gas explosion.

Such deadly gas explosions are relatively common in Russian Federation where much of the infrastructure dates back to the Soviet era and safety requirements are often ignored.

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