'Dozens missing' after fatal blast at apartment block

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The Emergency Ministry later said that 35 people are still missing, and it wasn't clear if they were in the building when it collapsed.

Local ambulance-service officials said seven people, including two children, were hospitalized.

It said 196 rescue workers were at the site.

The blast reportedly happened at around 6am local time, when many people were sleeping on what is a Russian public holiday.

"It is in the character of our people, despite New Year's festivities, to do not forget to think of the dead and wounded at this moment", Putin said.

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.

Temperatures in Magnitogorsk were expected to plunge to minus 23 Celsius on New Year's night, the biggest holiday of the year in Russian Federation.

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Russian rescuers were on Monday searching for people still trapped under the rubble of a city apartment block that partly collapsed in a suspected gas blast, killing at least three, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency said.

Oleg Klimov said 79 people were still missing, according to Tass.

The nation's top investigative agency, the Investigative Committee, said an explosion triggered by a gas leak apparently caused the pre-dawn collapse in the industrial city of Magnitogorsk.

Cabinet officials were heading to the city to oversee the rescue efforts.

Local authorities initially said 68 of those registered in the collapsed section of the building were unaccounted for, but later tracked down some of them.

There have been similar incidents in Russian Federation in recent years due to ageing infrastructure and poor safety over gas usage.

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