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    SHOIGU INFORMS PUTIN CONSTANTLY ABOUT ARKHANGELSK SEARCH-AND-RESCUE OPERATIONS

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    MOSCOW, March 16, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu continues to inform President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation about the situation in Arkhangelsk, a regional center in Russia's north-western federal district (where an apartment-house section collapsed), all the time. This was disclosed to RIA Novosti here today at the national Emergency Situations Ministry.

    Shoigu's reports attach priority to search-and-rescue operations.

    Eight people were killed and 20 more wounded as a result of an apartment-house blast in Arkhangelsk, reports the municipal rescue service.

    The Emergency Situations Ministry estimates that about 50 people might still be trapped under the rubble.

    Cynologists and specially trained dogs are now moving across the rubble, as they try to locate the people beneath. Rescue workers are doing their best to find persons inside empty spaces below crumpled apartment-house panels.

    Rescue workers are sifting through the rubble because it would be dangerous to use heavy-duty equipment. Everyone falls silent every 30 minutes, trying to hear the voices of those trapped, an Emergency Situations Ministry spokesperson noted.

    The apartment house exploded at about 3.26 a.m. Moscow time, with one of its sections collapsing as a result. The blast was presumably caused by natural gas.

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