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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bomb Leaves Swath of Destruction

VOLGODONSK, Southern Russia -- The bomb that tore the facade off a nine-story apartment building also shattered windows and window frames in three dozen other buildings up to a kilometer away, giving the scene in Volgodonsk the feeling of a war zone Friday.

The explosion before dawn Thursday, which the Federal Security Service, or FSB, estimates was equal to at least 500 kilograms of TNT, killed 17 people.

About 480 people required medical treatment, mostly for cuts from the shattering glass, although 72 were hospitalized with serious injuries, said Tatyana Biro, chief doctor at Hospital No. 3.

Valentina Vargulevich, who heads the intensive-care unit at the hospital, said two of her eight patients who had suffered severe head injuries were not likely to survive.

"It is a terrible tragedy," Vargulevich said. "We are used to many things, but this was horrible. When people started to arrive, some had piercing eye injuries, and there were already corpses around."

The bombing was the fourth at a Russian apartment building this month and extended the growing fear of terrorist attacks into the country's regions. The other blasts had been in Moscow and at a military housing complex in Dagestan, where federal troops are fighting Islamic militants. A total of nearly 300 people were killed in the four explosions.

An explosive device blew up in an apartment building in St. Petersburg late Thursday, killing two people and injuring three. The blast was not on the same scale as the other apartment building explosions, and authorities did not think it was related to the terrorist attacks. It was probably an accident, and the ensuing fire was made worse by a can of gasoline, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said.

In Volgodonsk, a town of 187,000 in the Rostov region, many people spent a sleepless night after the explosion.

Groups of teenagers armed with sticks wandered the streets, stopping cars and questioning the occupants. Residents evacuated several apartment blocks after someone raised an alarm about suspected explosives found nearby. The alarms were all false.

Lyudmila Dubinskaya with her husband, son and daughter spent the night outside on their sofa, which had been carried from their apartment in the demolished building. They had no friends or relatives to go to and were afraid to leave their belongings. Dubinskaya said her 6-year-old daughter, Lyuba, was so frightened that she couldn't sleep and wouldn't leave the spot.

"We ran out barefoot on shattered glass, but we don't have a single scratch," Dubinskaya said. "But Lyuba is in shock."

On Friday morning, a group of FSB investigators examined the huge crater - 3 1/2 meters deep and 13 meters in diameter - on the site where the bomb went off at 5:50 a.m. Thursday, most likely in a truck.

Firemen and emergency workers began to disassemble the frightening concrete structure of the most affected building - 35 Oktyabrskoye Shosse - which stood without a facade, with huge pieces of concrete hanging off of it.

Authorities in Moscow have blamed the explosions in the capital and in Dagestan on Islamic terrorists.

Alexander Turintsev, spokesman of the Rostov regional FSB, which is in charge of the investigation, said there was as yet no evidence linking the Volgodonsk bombing either to the previous blasts or to Islamic extremists.

"It would be more correct to say that the tracks of the crime lead to non-humans and beasts," he said. "Not only Chechens have kidnapped people and not only Chechens have bombed buildings. International terrorists have no nationality, nor have they a faith."

Many people in Volgodonsk suspect people from the Caucasus region carried out the attack, but there were no reports of retaliatory action.

"So far, as of 3 p.m. Friday, it is a reason to rejoice that there have been no anti-Caucasian pogroms in the region," FSB spokesman Turintsev said.

However, he praised the vigilance of residents. Police received about 700 calls during the day after the bombing from people reporting something suspicious, and very few of them were "idiotic," Turintsev said.

FSB investigators on the site, some dispatched from Moscow, collected evidence Friday. They wrapped up twisted pieces of metal, which could be parts of the blown-up truck, and took samples from the charred walls of the local police station, which was damaged in the explosion.

Volgodonsk was founded 50 years ago to house people working at the nearby Tsimlyansk hydroelectrical plant. It grew substantially in the 1970s and 1980s, when the pride of the Soviet economy - the Atommash plant - was being built, attracting young intellectuals and workers from around the country for the last "All-Union Komsomol Construction."

Stretching for kilometers, the huge, long, salad-green blocks of the plant, which was supposed to produce nuclear reactors as on a conveyer belt, are visible from the site of Thursday's devastation.

The chairman of the Rostov regional government, Viktor Anpilogov, who is also first deputy governor, came Friday morning to inspect the site and said that a total of 38 buildings had been damaged. The two most affected, 35 and 35A Oktyabrskoye Shosse, will be disassembled. The others are likely to be repaired, but will require additional inspections.

He said the reconstruction work will cost at least 50 million to 60 million rubles ($1.97 million to $2.36 million).

One by one, groups of people were allowed inside the nearby damaged buildings Friday to collect some of their belongings.

Olga Metko, dressed only in a bathrobe and slippers in the morning chill, stood near her home weeping. "We lost everything, everything!" she said.

While her husband went up the littered stairs to see what else could be salvaged, Metko recalled how a "pillar of fire went up to the skies" when the huge blast shattered the neighborhood. Her grown daughter, Marianna, whose bedroom faced the source of the explosion, had left the house just 10 minutes before. "She would be dead otherwise," Metko said. "The concrete windowsill and the window are all on her bed."

The degree of destruction in Volgodonsk is shocking, and it remains unclear if the local authorities will be able to compensate residents for the damage.

Anpilogov said people who lost their apartments will either get new apartments or special accounts will be established for them that will enable them to buy apartments. The regional administration estimates that housing compensation will amount to 18 million rubles.

But many victims were skeptical. "Nothing is being built here - where would they get the new apartments?" said Natalia Sentyurina, who escaped together with her husband, daughter and two canaries from a neighboring building at 58 Ulitsa Gagarina. She has scars on her face and feet and suspects she may have mild concussion.

"First, I thought the most important thing is that we are all alive," she said. "But now I am depressed. Our future is sad."

The Rostov regional administration said it received a telephone call from Krasnoyarsk region Governor Alexander Lebed, saying he was sending a planeload of medicine and blood supplies.

"He is a local Cossack from Novocherkassk, so we have not forgotten him," said Biro, the chief doctor.