Russia explosion: baby pulled alive from tower block rubble

Eleven-month-old child found in ruins of building where 37 people are still missing

Russian rescuers have pulled an infant boy alive from the rubble of an apartment building in Magnitogorsk, some 35 hours after a collapse that killed at least seven people and left dozens missing. Video: Reuters

 

Russian emergency services have found an 11-month-old baby boy alive in the rubble of an apartment block that collapsed in a gas explosion, after a bitterly cold night in which temperatures dropped to -26 degrees.

“Rescuers heard crying. The baby was saved by being in a cradle and warmly wrapped up,” regional governor Boris Dubrovsky said.

The infant, which was carefully pulled from the wreckage, was later driven to hospital.

A rescuer carries a 10-month-old child found in the rubble of a Russian apartment block. Photograph: via Reuters TV
A rescuer carries a 10-month-old child found in the rubble of a Russian apartment block. Photograph: via Reuters TV

The health ministry said in a statement the child was in a dangerous condition with serious frostbite, a head injury and leg fractures. He was due to be taken to Moscow for treatment.

The astonishing recovery - about 35 hours after the block collapsed - provided a dash of hope for rescuers, even as the search for other survivors looked increasingly futile.

Emergency employees work at the scene of a collapsed apartment building in Magnitogorsk, a city of 400,000 people, about 1,600 kilometers southeast of Moscow. Photograph: AP
Emergency employees work at the scene of a collapsed apartment building in Magnitogorsk, a city of 400,000 people, about 1,600 kilometers southeast of Moscow. Photograph: AP

At least seven people were killed and 37 more remain missing after the explosion tore through the residential building in central Russia, leaving hundreds without a home on New Year’s Eve.

Only six survivors have been found, including a 13-year-old boy.

A large section of the 10-storey building in the industrial city of Magnitogorsk, in the Ural mountains, crumbled at about 6am local time on Monday. The explosion happened before dawn, when many people were still asleep.

The UK’s Met Office recorded overnight temperatures in the area as low as -26 degrees. Powerful heaters were deployed in the hope of stopping any trapped survivors from freezing to death.

A handout photo from the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry Chelyabinsk Region shows rescue workers removing debris after a gas explosion in an apartment building in the city of Magnitogorsk. Photograph: EPA
A handout photo from the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry Chelyabinsk Region shows rescue workers removing debris after a gas explosion in an apartment building in the city of Magnitogorsk. Photograph: EPA

Workers had scoured the crushedconcrete and mangled steel throughout the night but the search was temporarily halted out of fear other sections of the structure could be unstable.

On Tuesday, the head of Russia’s emergencies ministry, Yevgeny Zinichev, said there was a “real threat of part of the building collapsing. It’s impossible to continue working in such conditions”.

Efforts to stabilise the walls could take up to 24 hours, precious time lost for rescuers ahead of a another sub-freezing night.

The Soviet-era apartment block was home to about 1,100 people, and other residents had been evacuated to a nearby school. The blast completely destroyed 35 flats but others were left standing.

Volunteers have offered money and clothing for victims, and some said they were ready to provide temporary shelter to those in need. Magnitogorsk, approximately 1,600kms east of Moscow, is home to one of the country’s largest steel producers.

Staff from Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works took part in the rescue operation and the company’s chairman said it would provide financial assistance.

Vladimir Putin rushed to the scene on Monday, with television broadcasts showing him looking concerned as he met local officials.

“It is in the character of our people, despite new year’s festivities, to remember to think of the dead and wounded at this moment,” he said.

Investigators have opened a criminal inquiry into the incident. - Guardian