Russian apartment block blast kills at least 4, dozens missing

MOSCOW: Rescuers scrambled amid freezing temperatures to recover people trapped in the rubble of a Russian city apartment block that collapsed in a gas explosion on Monday, killing at least four people and leaving dozens missing, news agencies reported.

The blast, thought to have been caused by a gas leak, damaged 48 apartments in a nine-storey building in Magnitogorsk, an industrial city in the Urals some 1,700 km (1,050 miles) east of Moscow, the emergencies ministry said.

"Four people have been killed, five are in hospital ... and the fate of 35 is unknown," Russian news agencies quoted the emergencies ministry as saying.

President Vladimir Putin flew into Magnitogorsk late on Monday afternoon, the Kremlin said, as rescue workers toiled in temperatures of - 22 Celsius (- 7.6 Fahrenheit) to locate people trapped in the debris.

Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova told state television that the chances of finding survivors were diminishing as the day wore on.

RIA news agency reported that the blast tore through the building at around 0600 a.m. (0100 GMT) when many residents were asleep. Monday was a public holiday in Russia.

There have been several similar incidents in Russia in recent years due to ageing infrastructure and poor safety regulations surrounding gas usage.

In 2015, at least five people were killed when a gas explosion damaged an apartment building in the southern Russian city of Volgograd.