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Death toll rises to 19 in apartment building collapse in Russia

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Death toll rises to 19 in apartment building collapse in Russia
Russian rescue workers clear debris after a gas explosion in an apartment building in Magnitogorsk, Russia, on Tuesday. The explosion damaged 48 apartments. Photo courtesy of Emergency Situations Ministry/EPA-EFE

Jan. 2 (UPI) -- The death toll in a collapsed apartment building in Magnitogorsk, Russia, rose to 19 Wednesday, as rescuers continued to search through the rubble in subzero temperatures.

The city in the Urals region observed a day of mourning for the victims of the New Year's Eve disaster. Officials said a gas leak sparked the early morning explosion that caused the seven-story 1970s-era building to partially collapse. An estimated 120 people lived in the 48 destroyed units.

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More than 20 people were still missing, including five children.

Rescuers pulled an 11-month-old boy out of the wreckage Tuesday. He was in serious condition at a Moscow hospital. The baby's mother was also rescued.

In a separate incident, three people died when a minibus caught fire Tuesday near the apartment building. Regional police blame "faulty gas equipment" for that explosion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the blast site Monday.

The combination of Soviet-era buildings, poor safety regulations and faulty natural gas equipment has been blamed for other building explosions in Russia in recent years.

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