23 killed in gas blasts

MOSCOW: Four children and 19 grownups were killed in two separate blasts in Russia blamed on gas explosions on Thursday. LNG containers burst in a crowded cafe in Chita, East Siberia, in the afternoon, destroying the building completely. Rescuers pulled 19 bodies from the rubble and were still sifting through the ruins, emergency officials said. Seventeen persons were wounded, seven of them seriously. Police found four mangled LNG cylinders on the site which were blamed for the blast. Two teenage girls and two boys died when an explosion ripped through a boiler room in a school yard in the southern republic of Dagestan. Another girl was badly injured in the blast, believed to have been caused by a gas leak in the boiler. The children were in the toilet adjacent to the boiler room. The main school building was not damaged. Dagestan, situated next to violence-torn Chechnya, has been the target of rebel incursions and terrorist attacks, but authorities denied the explosion had been caused by a bomb. They said traces of a high concentration of natural gas had been found at the site of the blast. The Emergency Situations Ministry predicted that 2004 would see a peak of technological disasters in Russia caused by faulty or old equipment. A roof collapse in a giant water park in Moscow On Feb. 14 killed 27 and injured over 100 people.