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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

9-Story Apartment Building Collapses

APThe apartment building collapsing Monday on Dvinskaya Ulitsa in St. Petersburg. At least one person was killed and three people, including a young boy, were hospitalized.
ST. PETERSBURG -- A nine-story apartment building collapsed Monday in St. Petersburg, killing a 50-year-old man and leaving more than 400 homeless.

Hundreds of emergency workers sifted through the pile of bricks and smoking furniture Monday evening looking for survivors. A thick cloud of dust hung over the site.

Rescue officials said 304 of the 413 people registered to live in the workers' dormitory had been accounted for as of 7 p.m.

Alexander Yefrimov, head of the city emergency service, said the 50-year-old victim apparently died of suffocation. It was not clear if the man, who lived on the eighth floor, died in the collapse or in a fire that also roared through part of the building.

Officials said three people, including a young boy, were taken to the hospital. The boy suffered breathing problems, while one had heart trouble and the other had cuts from broken glass.

The Fontanka.ru web site quoted fire department spokesman Valery Ardashev as saying a woman working in a Petrovsky Bank office on the ground floor called relatives on her mobile phone for help at about 6 p.m. Rescue officials tried to return the call but got no reply.

Firefighters said a male employee of the bank may also have been trapped in the ruins.

Residents of the building on Ulitsa Dvinskaya said they heard a loud bang at about noon and the floors and walls shook. A fire then broke out, and the building collapsed 30 minutes later.

"I was taking a shower in the bathroom when I heard something like an explosion. The bathtub shook under me, and the ceiling cracked," said Yury Pchelintsev, 18, who lived on the seventh floor. "I rushed to open the bathroom door, but it was jammed shut, so I broke the little window in the bathroom and climbed out through the hole."

Pchelintsev, with 40 or 50 of his neighbors, left the building immediately by the outdoor fire escape.

Alexander Belenky / MT

Firefighters hosing down the smoking rubble left after the building's collapse Monday.
"We've lost all our belongings there: gold, the computer, diamonds and documents," said Irina Pchelintseva, Yury's mother, who was at her dacha with her husband and younger son when the building collapsed.

"The most important thing is that my son is alive," she said.

Nadezhda Tolkachyova, 47, was in her room on the ninth floor when she saw cracks form in her ceiling.

"My 8-year-old daughter Nastya screamed in the kitchen and I rushed to her," she said. "The door was stuck and I pushed it out with all my strength."

Residents speculated that maintenance on the building's water pipes that started Monday morning may have been to blame for the collapse.

Police and fire officials said a gas leak or explosive device were also possibilities.

Anna Markova, deputy governor of St. Petersburg and head of the city's emergency commission, cautioned that an investigation must first be made to determine the cause.

"It is difficult to say at this point what caused the tragedy," Markova said. "The building wasn't on the list of buildings in emergency condition. The investigation will show the cause."

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu flew to St. Petersburg on Monday night to oversee the investigation.

St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said on Inform TV from Strasbourg, France, that all of the families would be given new apartments.

In the meantime, the city will be put up in a nearby kindergarten and school.

Four apartment buildings have collapsed in St. Petersburg in the past four years, but none resulted in casualties until Monday.