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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khabarovsk on Edge After 11 Killed in Explosion




At least 11 people were killed and seven others injured when an explosion shattered an apartment building in Russia's Far East, emergency officials said Tuesday.


The explosion destroyed 10 apartments in the five-story building in the city of Khabarovsk. Rescue teams were looking for two people believed buried in the debris, said Natalya Shakhgedanova, a spokeswoman at the Emergency Situations Ministry.


The front of the building torn away on the upper floors.


Authorities said they were trying to determine the cause of the blast, which occurred around dawn. Police could not immediately rule out a bomb attack, but a duty officer in the Khabarovsk region's police department said by the end of the day Tuesday it was clear that the explosion was the result of a gas leak.


But in the first half of the day, a fear of a terrorist attack caused a surge in telephone calls from citizens reporting on suspicious cars and strangers in the neighborhoods. As it became clearer that the blast was caused by an accident, the city has calmed down a bit, the officer said.


"But no one has calmed down completely," the officer said. "Neither you nor I can be sure that our homes will remain intact."


The local prosecutor's office opened an investigation into possible criminal negligence under Article 168 of the criminal code, which provides for punishment for "large-scale destruction of property caused by careless handling of fire or other sources of increased danger."


Russia has been on edge since a string of apartment bombings in Moscow and two other cities that killed some 300 people last September. Those blasts were blamed on Chechen rebels. The Chechens denied responsibility.


Government officials have recently warned that more terrorist acts were planned in response to the war in Chechnya. But explosions caused by faulty gas lines in Russia's aging apartment buildings are also frequent.


The bomb attacks in Moscow led to frequent document checks and reregistration for temporary residents, and served as one of the reasons for the invasi on of Chechnya in late September.