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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Death Toll Rises in Nizhny Blast




Rescue workers Friday dragged five more bodies from the wreckage of an apartment building in the Nizhny Novgorod region that was ripped apart by a gas explosion, bringing the death toll to six.


There were reports that a seventh victim, an elderly man, had died in the hospital from loss of blood Friday morning, though this was not confirmed by local officials.


The tragedy occurred Thursday evening when an explosion resulting from a gas leak demolished a two-story building in the village of Novodmitrievka, some 500 kilometers east of Moscow, Irina Korenchenko at the regional administration said Friday.


The incident was reported at 7:40 p.m., and local rescue workers and firemen were dispatched to the scene of the blast. The six bodies found included a 93-year-old woman and three children all under the age of 4. Eleven people were hospitalized for shock, Korenchenko said.


In all, about 150 rescue workers from local and regional services worked through the night, digging through the rubble to locate further victims. They stopped work at 5 a.m. Friday, Korenchenko said, when all 41 residents of the building were accounted for.


Igor Ptemyan, a reporter with the local newspaper Provintsialnaya Khronika, said the death toll had reached seven. A pensioner, who has not yet been identified, was rushed to the hospital after a collapsing wall severed both his legs. Hospital workers were not able to resuscitate him, and he died early Friday morning, Ptemyan said.


An eyewitness contacted by telephone Friday said she heard a loud explosion, followed by the sound of splintering glass and children screaming. "I thought a bomb had gone off," said the woman who identified herself only as Maria, and who was at home in the building next door when the blast occurred.


"Then people were running and yelling, and I understood that the house had collapsed," she said.


Half the apartments in the 16-apartment brick building, which was built in 1978, were completely destroyed, she said, while the other half were badly damaged.


Maria said she was not surprised to learn the blast was triggered by a gas leak. "The residents had been complaining to the authorities about the smell of gas for months," she said. "But they didn't do anything about it. All they said was 'Why don't you open your windows?'"


She said neighbors were quick to respond to the tragedy, providing shelter and bowls of soup for the residents of the demolished building. Temporary lodgings have been found for the blast victims in a local school.


"But in the long run, this is not very satisfactory," Maria said. "When the children go back to school, they will have to move somewhere else."


Nizhny Novgorod region Governor Ivan Sklyarov has promised compensation to victims of the blast, Korenchenko said. Each family will receive 100,000 rubles ($16,700) -- 50,000 rubles from local authorities and another 50,000 rubles from a regional fund set aside for emergencies. So far, however, none of the victims has received the money, Korenchenko said.


Gas explosions in residential buildings are a frequent occurrence in Russia.


Seven residents of a Moscow apartment building were killed last week when a gas blast caused part of the building to collapse.