Death toll rises
Survivors of gas explosion in Russia offered financial help
MOSCOW — The number of confirmed dead from a New Year’s Eve gas explosion in a Russian apartment block jumped to 37 on Thursday as rescuers recovered more bodies from the rubble of the partially collapsed building.
Six children were among the dead, the emergency situations ministry said in a statement, and four people were still unaccounted for.
Rescuers have been braving temperatures as low as -27 C to search through mangled concrete and metal at the site in the Ural Mountains city of Magnitogorsk.
Six people including two children have been rescued at the site, a baby boy was found alive on Tuesday after 35 hours spent in freezing cold in the rubble, in what emergency officials described as a miracle.
The explosion tore through the 10-story building in the industrial city nearly 1,700 kilometers east of Moscow in the early hours of Monday.
The Soviet-era building was home to about 1,100 people and the explosion destroyed 35 apartments, leaving dozens homeless.
The emergencies ministry said work was continuing at the site on Thursday, with nearly 900 people involved in rescue and recovery efforts.
A bridge was built to reach higher areas and one of the building’s walls was taken down as it was threatening to collapse on rescue workers.
On Thursday, residents of other parts of the building were allowed to enter their apartments, in half-hour stretches, to recover some belongings, the ministry said.
All the survivors were in stable condition, said the office of Chelyabinsk regional governor Boris Dubrovsky, who visited several of the injured in the hospital on Thursday.
Dubrovsky’s office said he had also approved new financial assistance for the victims, including payments of 1 million rubles ($14,500) to the families of those killed and 400,000 rubles for those injured.
Families who lost their apartments will receive payments of up 500,000 rubles, as well as being provided with new homes.
Financial assistance will also be provided to help pay for funerals, the first six of which are to be held on Friday, the governor’s office said.
The explosion, which officials have said was likely caused by a gas leak, happened as most of the building’s residents were asleep.
Witnesses described a “wave of fire” and said the blast was strong enough to shatter windows in nearby buildings.
Investigators have launched a probe, but have said there is no reason to suspect foul play.
Gas explosions are relatively common in Russia, where much of the infrastructure dates back to the Soviet era and safety requirements are often ignored.
Located in the mineral-rich southern Urals, Magnitogorsk, with a population of more than 400,000, is home to one of Russia’s largest steel producers.
People bring flowers, candles and toys to commemorate victims of a recent explosion in an apartment block in Magnitogorsk, Russia, on Wednesday.