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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
The death toll from the partial collapse of an apartment building in the Russian city of Magnitogorsk early on New Year’s Eve climbed to 39 on Thursday, CBS News reported.
“The body of a woman was retrieved from the rubble. The death toll is at the moment 38,” the Russian Ministry of Emergencies spokesman said. But several news agencies quickly revised that figure to 39.
So far, only 22 of the dead have been identified.
The spokesman declared the rescue operation completed, although three people who lived in the damaged 48 apartments remain unaccounted for.
Authorities Say No Explosives Were Found at Apartment Collapse Site
Russia’s investigative committee, which examines major crimes, said no traces of explosives were found at the apartment collapse site, the Guardian reported. Initial reports attributed the blast to a gas explosion.
Gas explosions “are relatively common in Russia because of ageing infrastructure and poor safety regulations,” the Guardian explained.
Russian authorities acknowledged that extreme cold hampered rescue crews from reaching the residents trapped in the rubble of the 10-story building.
Rescued Toddler Suffering from Frostbite and ‘Crush Syndrome’
On Tuesday, a 10-month-old boy was pulled from the wreckage alive, CBS News reported. He was the only person found alive in the debris and was flown to a Moscow children’s hospital for treatment for frostbite. The boy had been buried in the rubble for 35 hours in temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit).
State news channel Rossiya-24 cited doctors as saying the child also had injuries indicative of “crush syndrome.” This syndrome involves major shock and kidney malfunction, which is characteristic of people trapped under heavy objects. The boy’s condition was listed as serious but stable, the Russian Health Ministry said.
The mayor of Magnitogorsk told journalists on Thursday that there was no connection between the apartment building explosion and the fiery explosion of a minibus on the same street one day later.
The vehicle explosion occurred about 1.5 miles from the apartment building. Police said the minibus was carrying gasoline canisters, but gave few other details.
The industrial city of Magnitogorsk is located about 870 miles from Moscow on the southeastern side of the Ural Mountains, near the Ural River.