Russian officials ended the search of a collapsed apartment building Thursday and said the rescue crews that raced through concrete rubble found 39 people dead and one survivor in the three-and-a-half days since part of the structure came down while residents slept.
Officials think an explosion triggered by a gas leak caused the pre-dawn collapse Monday in the city of Magnitogorsk. A 10-month-old boy was the only person found alive in the wreckage. The baby suffered frostbite from lying in the rubble for 35 hours – temperatures were as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius.
The number of deaths stood at four for most of the first day, but climbed quickly after two nights of winter weather. Russian authorities acknowledged from the start that the extreme cold gave rescue crews less time to reach trapped survivors.
Hope flared when the injured infant was extracted from the debris Tuesday. He was flown to a Moscow children’s hospital for treatment and was listed in stable condition Thursday. State news channel Rossiya-24 cited doctors saying the child had injuries indicative of “crush syndrome” – major shock and kidney malfunction characteristic of people trapped under heavy objects.