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Infant Rescued Alive 35 Hours After Collapse Of Magnitogorsk High Rise


Rescuers have found an 10-month-old infant alive in the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in the Russian city of Magnitogorsk some 35 hours after a suspected gas explosion knocked down a section of the high-rise, killing at least nine with dozens still unaccounted for.

The baby boy was plucked from the wreckage on January 1, having survived freezing temperatures since the blast, which occurred early on New Year's Eve.

The TASS news agency reported the infant was found lying in his crib wrapped in layers of blankets, which likely saved his life.

Russian Rescuers Pull Infant From Collapsed Building
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The child -- identified as Ivan Fokin -- suffered frostbite and a head injury, TASS reported, citing a regional emergency center.

His mother survived the explosion and the collapse and has visited her son in the hospital.

Authorities had been forced to temporarily halt most of the rescue operations because of fears the efforts would shift rubble and cause more sections of the building to collapse.

"There is a real risk that more sections of the building will collapse," he said, adding that it could take up to a day before it is safe to resume rescue efforts.

Later, rescuers removed some dangerous segments of the building and resumed their operations.

Rescue workers had braved frigid conditions through the night in an effort to locate victims.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said that 26 apartments housing 46 residents were destroyed. More than 30 people remain unaccounted for.

President Vladimir Putin traveled to the city in the southern Urals later on December 31 and met with local officials before visiting some of the injured at a nearby hospital.

"It is in the character of our people, despite New Year's festivities, to remember to think of the dead and wounded at this moment," Putin said at the hospital.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered the creation of a government commission to provide aid to the victims of the disaster.

Rescuers Search For Survivors Of Russian Apartment Blast
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Regional Governor Boris Dubrovsky said on December 31 that seven children were among the missing.

Emergency Situations Minister Yevgeny Zinichev said it would take at least 48 hours to clear the debris.

Special large heaters were brought in to try to keep any possible survivors from freezing to death under the rubble as the rescue operations continue.

"We must work as quickly as we can since temperatures do not give us any time to linger," Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Pavel Baryshev told journalists.

According to the regional government, the explosion took place at 6:10 a.m. local time on December 31 in a complex of apartment buildings that was built in 1973 and houses some 1,100 people.

"We were sleeping and I woke up feeling I was falling down," said Yulia Gavrilova, a survivor. "I first thought I was dreaming it. Then I woke up for real and realized that I was standing outside. The wall was not there any longer. My mother was screaming that she couldn't breathe, and my son was screaming from another corner."

Sixteen people were evacuated from parts of the building not directly affected by the blast, and several others were able to escape the blast on their own.

The head of the Tajik diaspora in Magnitogorsk, Abulmajid Sharipov, told RFERL that a Tajik family of five was living in an apartment in the collapsed part of the building.

Shuhrat Ulfatov, 26, was found unconscious and hospitalized after spending more than six hours under the debris in freezing cold.

The fates of his wife and three children are unclear.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said on its website that, in all, 48 apartments from the third to the 10th floor in the building's central part were damaged by the explosion.

The Investigative Committee said it has launched a probe into the explosion and dispatched investigators from its central headquarters in Moscow to Magnitogorsk.

Magnitogorsk is located some 1,700 kilometers southeast of Moscow.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service, TASS, Interfax, and RIA Novosti
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