MOSCOW (AP) - Laboring through sub-freezing temperatures, Russian rescue workers were digging into a sprawling heap of jagged rubble from a collapsed apartment building when one heard the faintest sound.
It was the sound of life.
On Tuesday, to everyone’s delight and surprise, they pulled a baby boy out of the rubble alive, nearly 36 hours after the disaster that blew apart his home. His father called it “a New Year’s miracle.”
The building collapse in the Russian city of Magnitogorsk before dawn Monday has killed at least nine people so far, and officials say 32 people who lived in the building have still not been accounted for.
The rescue operation, aided by powerful heaters and lights, was continuing overnight into Wednesday in the city about 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) southeast of Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the accident site on Monday and went to a local hospital, where he spoke to a 13-year old-boy who had head injuries and frostbite after spending an hour under the rubble.
“You will get well soon, you are a fighter,” Putin told the boy, one of five people hospitalized from the building collapse.
Russian officials say the odds of finding anyone else alive in the debris look increasingly slim, given the extreme weather.
Late Tuesday, three people died in Magnitogorsk about two kilometers (1.2 miles) down the same street as the collapsed building when their passenger van exploded and caught fire. Police said the vehicle was carrying gas canisters.
In other Russian holiday disasters, seven people including a couple and their three children died in a house fire in the town of Orsk, 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) southeast of Moscow, Interfax reported. The fire early Tuesday is believed to have been caused by an electrical short-circuit, the report said.
In Moscow, the mayor fired the director of the city’s renowned Gorky Park after 13 people were injured when a wooden pedestrian bridge packed with New Year’s celebrants collapsed.
Video on Russian television showed a section of the bridge collapsing early Tuesday as the national anthem played on loudspeakers, marking the beginning of 2019. The park in central Moscow is a popular gathering place for the holiday.
The bridge, 350 meters (1,100 feet) long, runs along the park’s enormous outdoor ice rink.