Baby Found Alive After 35 Hours Under Rubble in Cold Russia Winter

By Amy Tang

An 11-month-old baby was found by rescuers in the rubble of a partially collapsed building in Russia, miraculously still hanging on to life after spending 35 hours in the freezing cold.

The baby, Ivan Fokin, was discovered on Tuesday, Jan. 1, in Magnitogorsk, a city in the west of Russia, close to Kazakhstan. According to the Russian Investigative Committee, the main cause for the partial collapse of the 10-story residential building was a gas explosion, reported the Russian News Agency, TASS.

At least nine people were killed by the collapse that damaged around 50 apartments on New Year’s Eve, and more than 30 people are still unaccounted for, according to the Associated Press.

Emergency officers inspect rubble as they take part in a rescue operation after a gas explosion rocked a residential building in Russia's Urals city of Magnitogorsk
Emergency officers inspect rubble as they take part in a rescue operation after a gas explosion rocked a residential building in Russia’s Urals city of Magnitogorsk on Dec. 31, 2018. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Ivan’s father called the discovery of his son “a New Year’s miracle,” as quoted by RT, a Russian TV network. However, Ivan was in a serious condition after the rescue.

Ivan sustained a head injury and leg fractures and is suffering from severe frostbite. The baby will receive treatment in Moscow, which is about 1,053 miles west of Magnitogorsk.

When the collapse happened, Ivan’s father was at work. The mother of Ivan, Olga Fokina, escaped with her older son after the collapse, Russian media reported.

“I was sleeping on the couch with my older son, hugging him and the young one was sleeping in his baby bed,” Fokina said on Russian TV. “I and the older one fell down and quickly got out and I didn’t know what happened to the baby bed afterward.”

On Russian television, Pyotr Gritsenko, a rescue worker, said that one of the crewmembers heard the baby’s cries.

“They stopped all the equipment. He began to cry louder,” said Gritsenko. However, the crew was unable to locate the baby. Ivan’s father joined in the rescue effort and “showed them a place where he approximately could be.”

When Ivan was found, the 11-month-old infant had spent the night in temperatures of -15 degrees F. The baby was protected by his crib and was wrapped in layers, according to Regional governor Boris Dubrovsky, reported the Interfax news agency.

Removing Ivan from the rubble was not easy, as the unstable debris posed risks for rescuers, according to Reuters. When a rescuer successfully removed the baby from the rubble, he wrapped the baby in a blanket and ran to an ambulance, as shown in video footage from the local emergency ministry.

“Hundreds of people were waiting for the appearance of the injured child from under the rubble like a miracle,” officials were quoted as saying by Interfax. “And the miracle happened.”

The collapse happened at the early morning of a public holiday. Many residents were sleeping at the time of the incident.

Authorities had announced that the rescuers had halted their search for survivors, according to the BBC.

A view of a damaged residential building after it was hit by a gas explosion in Russia's Urals city of Magnitogorsk
A view of a damaged residential building after it was hit by a gas explosion in Russia’s Urals city of Magnitogorsk on Jan. 1, 2019.

“It’s impossible to continue working in such conditions,” emergencies ministry head Yevgeny Zinichev reportedly said, citing a “real threat of part of the building collapsing.”

Securing the unstable building will take about 24 hours.

In Russia, similar incidents had been reported in recent years as a result of aging infrastructure and poor safety regulations.