Search for survivors ends in Russian apartment block collapse that killed 39

Russian officials ended the search of a collapsed apartment building Thursday and said the rescue crews who raced for 3½ days through concrete rubble found 39 people dead and just one survivor.

After more than 3 days of scouring concrete rubble during frigid weather, only 1 survivor found

Emergency workers continued combing through the rubble of the collapsed building in Russia on Thursday, as the death toll rose to 38. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations/Associated Press)

Russian officials ended the search of a collapsed apartment building Thursday and said the rescue crews who raced for 3½ days through concrete rubble found 39 people dead and just one survivor.

Officials think an explosion triggered by a gas leak caused the pre-dawn collapse Monday in the city of Magnitogorsk, about 1,700 kilometres east of Moscow. A 10-month-old boy was the only person found alive.

The baby had frostbite but miraculously survived after lying for 35 hours in the rubble — while temperatures dipped to as low as – 20 C.

The number of deaths stood at four for most of Monday, 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 also had injuries indicative of "crush syndrome" — major shock and kidney malfunction characteristic of people trapped under heavy objects. His condition was assessed as serious but stable, the Russia Health Ministry said Wednesday.

No other people were found in the debris, although a cat was discovered alive on Wednesday.

Mayor says no connection to minibus explosion

On Thursday, the mayor of Magnitorgorsk told journalists there was no connection between the explosion at the apartment building and the fiery explosion of a minibus on the same street a day later.

The vehicle explosion took place about 2½ kilometres from the apartment block. Police said the minibus was carrying gas canisters, but have given few other details.

This photo provided by the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations taken from television footage shows the rescue of a baby from the rubble of the collapsed building on Jan. 1. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations via AP)

But video of the burning vehicle, including some posted on YouTube by Russia's RT satellite TV channel, featured sounds resembling gunfire, and an observer's voice is heard saying people are shooting assault rifles.

Unconfirmed reports have suggested the apartment blast could have been a terrorist act and that the occupants of the exploded vehicle were suspects.

"I want to say that there are no clear facts showing any kind of confirmation of what is described on the internet today," Mayor Sergei Berdnikov said of the reports, according to state news agency TASS.