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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Apartments Are Cold Comfort

If someone told 33-year-old housewife Irina Manuilova on Wednesday that she would be moving to a new apartment Friday, she would probably have found the joke funny.

But Friday afternoon, Manuilova and her family, who lived in the building on Ulitsa Guryanova that was destroyed by a powerful explosion, had two hours to pack their possessions before a truck arrived to take them to a new apartment.

For the first time since the blast, which occurred at about midnight Wednesday, Manuilova, her husband, Sergei, and 13-year-old son, Dima, were allowed to return briefly to their half-ruined apartment at entrance No. 6.

The explosion wiped out sections No. 3 and 4, and badly damaged the other four sections of the building, which are no longer safe to live in.

Manuilova's family was one of 164 families to receive documents for new apartments Friday. The city promised to give apartments to the remaining 33 homeless families within the next few days.

Manuilova recalled the night of the explosion, when her home of 25 years was destroyed.

"I woke up when something heavy hit my back and my son screamed," Manuilova said on Friday, sitting outside the building between piles of books tied together, boxes filled with her clothes, chairs and a refrigerator.

The steel door of her family's third-floor apartment would not open after the blast. "My husband tied three sheets and attached them to the radiator and we climbed down," she said.

Instead of a three-room apartment, the city authorities granted Manuilova and her family a two-room place in Mitino, a new residential area to the north of Moscow where apartments have long been sitting empty.

Manuilova's cousin, Alexander Churkin, who lived in an apartment in entrance No. 4, was still missing and feared dead on Friday, while his 17-year-old daughter, Nadya, was identified at a morgue on Thursday.

For some other survivors, the gift of an apartment was not the end of their troubles.

Pensioner Natalya Yazynina, 62, went to look at a new apartment, in the same southeastern district, that the city had offered to her and her injured son. But Yazynina said she found that the building was still under construction.

While residents of 19 Ulitsa Guryanova were either moving Friday or getting ready to move, residents of the next-door building, No. 17, staged a protest Friday against the city's decision not to move them, even though their apartments were also damaged.

All the windows in the building were shattered in the explosion, and apartments on the bottom two floors were damaged almost as badly as those in some sections of the building next-door. No walls were left between the rooms on the ground floor. One woman who lived in No. 17 died, and at least a dozen were injured.

City authorities decided that the building was structurally sound and promised to renovate it. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said it would be ready in two to three weeks.

The residents were offered places at a nearby dormitory, but they want new apartments as well, saying that they doubt a renovation will make the building safe enough to live in.

"Our children are afraid to go inside," said Tatyana Sorokina, 47, who together with her neighbors was blocking the entrance Friday and preventing soldiers from entering to clean up the rubble.

Sorokina's neighbor, Galina Vorobyova, said officials who had arrived earlier to take a look at the building were afraid to go inside.

"They refused even to go inside, while we are supposed to live there," Vorobyova said.

Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, came to the site Friday afternoon and promised the angry residents that he would help them.

"We will take your building under control. I will speak with Luzhkov," Yavlinsky said in footage shown on NTV television.

At the nearby Tula movie theater, which serves as the makeshift headquarters of the Emergency Situations Ministry and a first aid center, relatives of those who were still missing were anxious for any information about their loved ones.

Pensioner Leonid Borovsky, 71, knew nothing about his son, Vladimir, his son's wife, her mother and two grandchildren on Friday, and had almost no hope left of finding them alive. None of them were hospitalized or identified at the morgues.

Borovsky was at his dacha with his wife when the explosion occurred. On Thursday, his son's colleagues at the communications department of the Moscow regional branch of the Interior Ministry started looking for the missing man and his family.

"When Volodya didn't arrive at work, we checked his address with the personnel department and began checking morgues and hospitals," Alexander Troitsky, Vladimir Borovsky's colleague, said.

"After we didn't find him at the morgues and hospitals, still no information was available," Troitsky said. "Everything is so badly organized."