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Gas Blast Kills 4 in Russia

MOSCOW (AP) -- A natural gas explosion tore into an apartment building, killing four people in a small town in central Russia before dawn on Friday, an emergency official said.

The blast occurred at about 1:40 a.m. local time in Stari Oskol, 310 miles south of Moscow. It destroyed eight apartments in the three-story building, said Viktor Beltsov, a spokesman for the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Three of the victims were members of one family, he said.

Russia's NTV television showed a brick building with the facade sheared away and several floors collapsed inside. Sheet metal on the roof was blown apart and twisted by the powerful explosion, the footage showed.

The blast was the latest in a series of explosions and fires blamed on natural gas leaks in Russia.

At least 12 major gas explosions in 2000 killed 34 people in various regions of the country, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported Friday. Aging pipes and careless attitudes toward the danger of gas leaks are usually cited as a reason for the explosions.

AP-NY-12-29-00 0458EST< 

-- Rachel Gibson (, December 29, 2000

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