Open main menu

Magnitogorsk apartment building collapses after explosion, dozens dead

Friday, January 4, 2019

An apartment building collapsed on Monday in Magnitogorsk, a city in the Ural region of Russia. A suspected gas leak led to an explosion, followed by the ten-storey building coming down. A total of 39 are confirmed dead, officials told state media, adding that rescuers ended their work yesterday. Some reports suggest a deliberate criminal act.

A file photo showing a view of Magnitogorsk.
Image: АлександрВ.И. via Panaramio.

The 1973 building was home to over 1,000 people; 48 apartments were damaged. Rescuers, working in temperatures well below freezing, according to the emergencies ministry recovered at least ten survivors from the debris on Monday. The building was evacuated. Over 1,000 rescuers responded.

The Investigative Committee and the Federal Security Service (FSB) said they believe gas, which leaks relatively frequently in Russia, was the trigger for the disaster which occurred at 6am as many occupants slept. President Vladimir Putin was briefed, and flew to Magnitogorsk on Monday, observing the rescue mission and visiting the wounded in hospital. In a meeting that day he was told by Emergencies Minister Yevgeny Zinichev of "presumably between 36 and 40 people under the rubble", while Chelyabinsk regional Deputy Governor Oleg Klimov indicated 68 people were missing.

Search and rescue was suspended on Tuesday, with Zinichev describing the "real threat of [another] part of the building collapsing" as making it "impossible to continue working in such conditions", and work launched to stabilise the remaining structure. He estimated this would take 24 hours. Cranes were used to hoist workers into position to demolish sections deemed dangerous. Rescue work resumed on Wednesday, with additional bodies recovered increasing the confirmed death toll from fourteen to 31.

President Putin pictured in Magnitigorsk after arriving there in response to the disaster.
Image: Администрация Президента России.

"The search and rescue operation is complete," Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Alexander Chupriyan told TASS on Wednesday. Chelyabinsk's governor has promised each victim will be subject to a payout of one million rubles.

Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova indicated on Monday the chances of those trapped being found alive were already diminishing. On Tuesday an eleven-month-old boy, identified only as Ivan, was rescued alive and flown to Moscow for treatment of injuries including frostbite, leg fractures, and head trauma. He was found under rubble, still in his cot after having been trapped for over 30 hours. Ivan's condition was on Wednesday reported to not be life-threatening.

The Emergencies Ministry said six deaths were of children.

On the night of Monday to Tuesday another explosion hit a gas-powered minibus in the city. Officials said three people died; their identities were not provided. Both explosions took place on Karl Marx Avenue, within two miles of each other.

Officials including Putin at a meeting in Magnitogorsk on Monday.
Image: Администрация Президента России.
Cquote1.svg It's impossible to continue working in such conditions Cquote2.svg

—Zinichev calling a temporary halt to rescue work ahead of emergency stabilisation works

The FSB denies the two explosions are related; reports describe speculation the disaster's cause was not in fact a gas leak. One news site, Znak.com, claims FSB sources have ascribed the explosion to terrorism. The Investigative Committee says it has found no trace of explosives despite Znak.com claiming an anonymous source described a second-floor apartment being used as an explosives depot ahead of a planned shopping centre bombing. Znak.com further reported its source said that apartment's tenant moved in the day before the blast.

Regional governor Boris Dubrovsky said FSB officers were present where the minibus exploded outside the local administrative building, but said this too was unrelated to the other explosion. Znak.com reported its source said "three terrorists" were killed in a firefight on Monday night, while footage from the scene showed the vehicle burn amid what sounds like gunfire.

The website further reported its anonymous source claimed a fourth offender escaped and remains wanted. Monday saw armed police with dogs searching a second apartment block in Magnitigorsk. Residents there told the press the officers claimed to be seeking a bomb.


Sister links

Sources