MOSCOW, November 9. /TASS/. At least four people were killed when a nine-storey residential building partially collapsed in the Russian Urals city of Izhevsk on Thursday, possibly as a result of a gas blast.
A rescue operation still continues. Residents of the house were taken to emergency shelters.
A criminal case has been launched.
Rescue effort under way
According to local authorities, a part of a residential building caved in at about 16:30 local time (15:30 Moscow time). The collapsed section had 16 apartments, home to 99 people. The first two storeys of the building housed shops.
Casualty reports varied throughout the day. According to the region’s chief, Alexander Brechalov, three people died, including one child. Deputy head of Udmurtia’s Russian Guard department, Nikolai Merzlyakov, four people died.
"As of 22:00 Moscow time, eight people were found under the rubble. Four of them died, four were injured," a crisis response center official said, adding that two were hospitalized and two are receiving out-patient treatment.
According to the official, two of the injured are teenagers, who received slight wounds and were dismissed from hospital shortly after. They are currently receiving out-patient treatmenet.
A local health source told TASS the remaining two injured are a teenager and a woman aged 65.
"According to most recent reports, only two people were hospitalized: a woman aged 65 and a teenager. The woman is in extremely serious condition, her identity is yet to be established. The teenager’s condition is moderately serious," the source said.
Two more people remain unaccounted for.
A disaster response center was set up in Izhevsk, comprising regional and city administrative officials, as well as representatives of various rescue and law-enforcement agencies.
A group of approximately 130 rescuers from Udmurtia was deployed on the site almost immediately. The collapsed house was cordoned off by members of the Russian guard.
Other regions have also sent their rescuers to assist in the operation. According to most recent information, about 500 rescuers are currently working on the site.
The search and rescue effort still continues on site. "Rescuers work in shifts and clear the rubble manually," a local rescue service official told TASS.
Gas blast suspected
The head of Udmurtia’s regional emergencies service, Pyotr Fomin, said a gas blast at the third or the fourth floor is seen as the most likely cause of the disaster.
According to the region’s chief rescuer, the collapse totally destroyed eight three-room apartments, with 28 registered inhabitants. After the collapse, a fire broke out on the third and fourth floors, but was promptly contained and put off.
The Russian Investigative Committee is looking into the accident. A criminal case was launched into suspected safety violations.
More than 120 residents of the damaged buildings were evacuated to nearby schools. They will be allowed to return to their apartments only if a team of experts from Moscow rules that the unaffected sections of the buildings are safe.
"The remaining sections appear to be safe, but we will not risk people’s lives and are waiting for a team of experts who are currently flying to us from Moscow. Making this decision will take time," the republic’s chief said.
Helping the victims
City and regional authorities vowed all necessary assistance to the families of the victims.
"We will render necessary aid to the families of those killed and injured. We will be ready to provide all additional information when a governmental commission convenes in the morning. Right now we have enough personnel and equipment for the rescue effort," the head of the Republic of Udmurtia, Alexander Brechalov, said in a statement.
According to earlier reports, local administrative bodies pledged that all those who lost their documents as a result of the disaster, will receive the new ones within two days.
A number of local charity organizations have already began raising funds and collecting basic necessities from those willing to help the affected residents of the house.
State of emergency
A state of emergency was declared on the territory of the entire city of Izhevsk, the city administration announced.
"Until further notice <…> a state of emergency was declared in the city of Izhevsk due to a suspected household gas blast in a residential building on the Udmurtskaya street," the authorities said in a statement.
Traffic restrictions were imposed in the surrounding area until Saturday.