Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Apartments Ready for Life After Blast

Three months ago, a blast ripped through a residential block north of the city center, killing seven people and injuring two others. The explosion, which Moscow city authorities said was caused by a gas leak on the third floor, sent 10 floors crashing to the yard below, destroying 52 apartments and leaving some 200 people without a home.

Today, the building at 54 Shcherbakovskaya Ulitsa has been restored, and residents expect to move back in by the end of the month - or as soon as the local housing administrator has declared it safe.

"We had to fix everything, from the gas to the electricity to the sewage system," said Sergei Nikolayev, an engineer at Glavmosstroi, one of the companies contracted to reconstruct the building.

The building is guarded against looters 24 hours a day by local police officers, but occupants regularly visit their former home to watch the progress. Galina Azimova, whose four-room communal flat was reduced to rubble after the explosion, makes the trip every day.

"I just want to move back into my own home," she said. "At the moment I feel like an outcast."

All the same, she said, she is lucky to be alive. Fifteen minutes before the building blew up July 29, she left home to buy a loaf of bread.

"I came back with my shopping and saw fire engines roaring up to where I live," she said. "When I saw what had happened, I just fainted onto the pavement."

Hours later she was told that the pensioner who had shared the communal apartment with her had been killed in the blast.

"She was asleep at the time," Azimova said. "The floor caved in, and her bed just slipped through the hole and tumbled 10 floors. I just hope she didn't wake up before she died."

But Azimova said she had no idea how she was going to refurnish her home once she is given back her key.

"We have to buy everything again, from our curtains to our spoons to our knitting needles," she said. "It is difficult to say how we are going to survive."

Azimova said every occupant of 54 Shcherbakovskaya Ulitsa was given 50,000 rubles to compensate for the blast. Before the ruble crash, 50,000 rubles came to some $8,500.

"That was easily enough to refurnish our homes," Azimova said. But now the sum is worth a little more than $3,000, and Azimova said that after she had paid a three-month hotel bill it was unlikely she would be able to afford to buy a bed for her only son.

Not everyone is unhappy, however. Lidia Postnikova, a pensioner, said she has enjoyed living in the Izmailovo hotel complex, where all the victims of the blast were offered accommodation, more than any holiday in her life.

"Like during the war, the tragedy has brought people together," she said, adding that she could see the roof of her home from her hotel window.

Just one thing bothers her - why exactly the building blew up in the first place. Less than an hour after the blast, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov rushed to the scene, and declared the explosion had been caused by a buildup of gas.

"But it was the middle of the summer and extremely hot," Postnikova said. "There couldn't have been a buildup of gas if all the windows were open."