3 dead, 79 missing after gas explosion rocks Russia high-rise

Geraldine Edwards
January 1, 2019

Officials said four people were confirmed dead and five others, including two children, had been taken to hospital.

A spokesman said: "Six people have been pulled out of the rubble, three died, three were injured, including a child".

Putin looked on as rescue workers toiled in temperatures of -22 Celsius to locate people trapped under the debris.

RIA said it ripped through the building about 6am (local time) when many residents were asleep.

The Kremlin said that President Putin had been informed about the situation.

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Search and rescue teams are picking through the rubble of the partially-collapsed nine-storey building amid fears the death toll could grow.

The emergencies ministry said on its web site that the section of the building could have collapsed due to a natural gas blast.

Temperatures in Magnitogorsk were expected to plunge to minus 23 Celsius on New Year's night, the biggest holiday of the year in Russian Federation.

The fate of 79 other people was not clear.

Cabinet officials were heading to the city to oversee the rescue efforts.

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"The chances are reducing with time", Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said when pressed by reporters on the likelihood of finding trapped survivors.

Local authorities initially said 68 people registered as residents in the collapsed section of the building were missing, but later tracked down some of them.

The Soviet-era high-rise was built in 1973 and was home to around 1,100 people.

The cause of the gas explosion is not immediately known.

Emergency workers at the scene of an apartment building in Magnitogorsk, Russia, after an explosion on December 31, 2018.

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There have been similar incidents in Russian Federation in recent years due to ageing infrastructure and poor safety over gas usage.

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