3 dead, 79 missing after gas explosion rocks Russia high-rise

3 dead, 79 missing in Russia apartment block explosion

Cold weather (close to minus 20 degrees Celsius) plus a danger that the remaining part of the building might collapse are major challenges being faced by the rescue teams, Dubrovsky said. Another four people, including two children, were hospitalized, officials said.

President Vladimir Putin rushed to the city, where the blast left hundreds of residents homeless in freezing temperatures on New Year's Eve - the biggest holiday of the year in Russian Federation.

"It is in the character of our people, despite New Year's festivities, to do not forget to think of the dead and wounded at this moment", Putin said.

The emergencies ministry said on its web site that the section of the building could have collapsed due to a natural gas blast.

Russian emergency officials say that at least four people have died after sections of the apartment building collapsed after an apparent gas explosion in the Ural Mountains region.

Magnitogorsk Mayor Sergei Berdnikov told the Tass news agency that 38 people are still missing, adding that it wasn't clear if they were in the building when it collapsed. Cabinet officials arrived in Magnitogorsk to oversee the rescue efforts.

Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Magnitogorsk after being notified of the tragedy.

Emergency workers have evacuated residents of nearby sections of the building, fearing they could also tumble down.

People look at the scene of a collapsed apartment building in Magnitogorsk. Investigators opened a criminal probe into the accident, with the FSB security service confirming the blast had been the result of a gas explosion.

There have been several similar incidents in Russian Federation in recent years due to aging infrastructure and poor safety regulations regarding gas usage.

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