Apartment Building Explosion in Crimea Kills 27

KIEV — The death toll from an apartment building explosion in southern Ukraine reached 27 over the weekend, and authorities said hope was waning of finding more survivors.

Salvage teams had pulled 21 people out alive from the rubble by Friday night, two days after the five-story building collapsed in the Crimean peninsula resort of Yevpatoria.

It was unclear whether other victims could still be buried in the wreckage. Authorities said 62 people were registered as residents in the destroyed apartments, but could not say how many were in the building when the blast occurred Wednesday night.

Ukraine held a day of national mourning Friday, with flags across the country lowered to half-mast.

The explosion caused the entire central section of the building to collapse, exposing apartments on either side. As of Friday evening, 27 bodies had been recovered, including two children, officials said.

Officials were investigating several causes for the blast, including the explosion of oxygen canisters in the basement, said spokesman Volodymyr Ivanov of the Crimean branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry. Neglect of safety precautions has led to frequent explosions in apartment buildings and public facilities in former Soviet republics.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko were in Yevpatoria on Thursday to inspect rescue efforts and talk to survivors. Tymoshenko said survivors would be given free housing before year's end.

Yushchenko thanked Russia for offering to send naval personnel to help with the rescue but said they were not needed.

NTV television reported that the remnants of the building would soon be torn down due to safety concerns.