One dead, four missing in Russia gas blast

A view shows a damaged apartment block after an apparent gas explosion in Shakhty in Rostov Region, Russia January 14, 2019. — Reuters pic
A view shows a damaged apartment block after an apparent gas explosion in Shakhty in Rostov Region, Russia January 14, 2019. — Reuters pic

MOSCOW, Jan 14 — One person was killed and four were missing after a gas explosion tore through a multi-storey residential building in southern Russia early today, authorities said.

The blast, in the town of Shakhty in the southern Rostov region, destroyed several apartments on the top two floors of the nine-storey building, the emergencies ministry said.

“The fate of four people remains unknown,” emergencies ministry spokeswoman Marina Chernyavskaya told AFP, adding that a rescue operation involving more than 200 workers was under way.

The blast came two weeks after a gas explosion tore through a Russian apartment block in the Urals city of Magnitogorsk on New Year’s Eve, leaving 39 people dead.

Chernyavskaya said the building in Shakhty, 1,000km south of Moscow, was in danger of collapse and officials planned to prop it up.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been notified of the gas explosion, with the Rostov governor reporting to him on the rescue operation, the Kremlin said.

“The president tasked the head of the region to provide comprehensive assistance to the victims,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

On New Year’s Eve Putin inspected the collapsed building in Magnitogorsk and visited the hospitalised victims.

Authorities said the rescue operation in Shakhty would take at least 24 hours.

A man and a two-year-old girl were hospitalised and their condition was “satisfactory,” said Chernyavskaya.

More than 40 people were evacuated to a nearby school.

Earlier in Magnitogorsk, investigators ruled out foul play, saying the accident came as a result of a gas explosion.

Gas explosions are relatively common in Russia, where much of the infrastructure dates back to the Soviet era and safety requirements are often ignored. — AFP

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