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Apartment block fire claims 8 in Russia

A GAS explosion tore through a Siberian apartment block early yesterday and sparked a fire that engulfed the building, killing eight people, including two children, Russian media reported.

Separately, a gas canister blast killed one person in a St Petersburg grocery market, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported, citing officials.

The two incidents underlined the fire safety record in Russia, where emergency officials said more than 15,000 people died last year in more than 200,000 reported blazes.

In the Siberian city of Irkutsk, the two-story wooden apartment building was destroyed by fire after the explosion of a household gas canister, likely brought in by a resident for cooking, Interfax and ITAR-Tass reported.

Aside from the eight people killed, seven were injured, media said, citing emergency officials. The building's 21 other registered tenants were not at home at the time, officials were quoted as saying.

The building reportedly had not been rigged for gas supplies, and residents had brought in canisters for cooking, according to media reports.

Channel One television showed footage of firefighters hosing down the building's smoking, charred remains.

In the northwestern city of St Petersburg, authorities suspect an exploded gas canister triggered the fire in the grocery store of a low-level concrete shopping center. State television broadcast pictures of firefighters attempting to put out the blaze.

People often use faulty fuel canisters for cooking and heat in Russia.


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