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Three dead, 79 missing as gas explosion rocks high-rise

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Written by Maritime First

…Lion Kills Intern At US Wildlife Park***

Three people were killed and another 79 were unaccounted for after a gas explosion rocked a residential building in Russia on Monday, leaving hundreds without a home in freezing temperatures on New Year’s Eve.

An entire section of the 12-storey residential building collapsed when a gas explosion tore through the high-rise in the industrial city of Magnitogorsk nearly 1,700 kilometres (1,050 miles) east of Moscow in the Ural mountains.

“Three people have been pulled alive from the rubble and three are dead,” Boris Dubrovsky, governor of the Chelyabinsk region where the city is located, said in a statement.

Officials said that the fate of 79 people was unclear, with police working to locate their whereabouts.

National television broadcast footage of the mangled heaps of concrete as hundreds of rescue workers combed the debris in temperatures of minus 18 Celsius (minus 0.4 F).

In a sign of the seriousness of the situation, President Vladimir Putin ordered emergencies minister Yevgeny Zinichev and health minister Veronika Skvortsova to travel to Magnitogorsk to personally oversee the rescue operation.

The Soviet-era high-rise was built in 1973 and was home to around 1,100 people. The residents have been evacuated.

A total of 110 people were registered as residents of the affected section of the building, regional authorities said. Sixteen of them have been evacuated, and another 15 were not home at the time of the blast.

Deadly gas explosions are relatively common in Russia where much of the infrastructure dates back to the Soviet era and safety requirements are often ignored.

In the meantime, a lion attacked and killed a young American woman who had just started working at the facility where it was kept, the centre said Sunday.

Alexandra Black, 22, was passionate about wildlife and had worked just 10 days as an intern at the facility in Burlington, North Carolina.

“The Conservators Center is devastated by the loss of a human life today,” it said in a statement.

“While a husbandry team led by a professionally trained animal keeper was carrying out a routine enclosure cleaning, one of the lions somehow left a locked space and entered the space the humans were in and quickly killed one person.

“It is unclear at this time how the lion left the locked enclosure. At no time did the lion ever enter a space that was not enclosed by the park’s perimeter fence,” the statement added, expressing its condolences to Black’s family and announcing it would close temporarily.

The lion was killed so Black could be retrieved, the centre said.

Black, a recent graduate of Indiana University, had worked a few weeks at the facility home to dozens of animals and 21 different species, its website says.

AFP

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