7 Killed in Explosion in Kazan

ReutersRescuers searching for survivors in a collapsed apartment building after an explosion in Kazan on Wednesday.
A natural gas blast ripped through an apartment building in Kazan on Wednesday, killing at least seven people and leaving others feared trapped beneath the rubble, officials said.

The early morning explosion brought down an entire section of the three-story brick building in Tatarstan's capital. State television showed footage of the ruins -- a jagged remnant of a wall and a pile of rubble with smoke or steam wafting into the frigid air.

Six people were found dead in the rubble, and one of two people hospitalized, a woman aged 56, died several hours later, emergency officials said.

Two people were rescued alive from the ruins.

"There were 33 people registered as residents in the collapsed building, but nobody knows how many were in it at the time," said a spokeswoman for the regional emergency services.

The explosion, which sparked a fire, was apparently caused by a gas leak, Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov said.

A distraught woman told Channel One television that a 7-year-old girl and her grandfather, apparently relatives, were missing after the blast.

"We found grandmother, she's in the emergency room," the woman said. "We don't know where grandfather is, and we don't know where [the girl] is. She's nowhere to be found."

The blast destroyed or damaged 12 apartments, Tatarstan's top emergency official, Ferdinand Timurkhanov, said on Channel One.

Channel One said rescue efforts were complicated by the cold. The overnight temperature in the city, 700 kilometers east of Moscow, was minus 25 degrees Celsius, it said.

Neglect of safety precautions and poor infrastructure has led to frequent gas explosions in Russian apartment buildings and public facilities.

AP, Reuters