MOSCOW — At least three people died and nearly 80 were missing on Monday after an early-morning explosion, possibly caused by a gas leak, caused part of a residential apartment building to collapse in the central Russian city of Magnitogorsk, local news agencies reported.
Cries for help could be heard from the rubble, news reports said, with hundreds of rescue workers scrambling to find survivors. Witnesses smelled gas in the area, and a leak was believed to be behind the explosion in the industrial city at the southern edge of the Ural Mountains, some 1,050 miles east of Moscow.
The eruption occurred around 6 a.m. local time on Monday, a public holiday in Russia in advance of the New Year, when most of the residents were asleep. Of 110 apartments in the building, 48 were damaged and 16 people were taken from the building unhurt, the Emergencies Ministry said.
Rescuers have pulled at least six people from the rubble so far, including the three dead and a child who was injured, according to a statement from the ministry’s local branch.
The fate of 79 people remained unclear, Oleg Klimov, the deputy governor of the Chelyabinsk region, was quoted as telling the news agency TASS.