Four killed in Milan building collapse

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The Independent Online

Firefighters and rescue workers searching through the rubble of a collapsed building in Milan today pulled out the body of a woman, bringing the death toll to four.

The building collapsed last night following an explosion, killing two men and a seven-year-old boy. The fourth victim was found overnight, officials said. About a dozen people remained in hospital.

Firefighters were clearing the debris from the explosion, which was believed to have been caused by a gas leak.

The blast sparked a fire, caused the building on the eastern edge of Italy's financial capital to collapse and shook other buildings as far as 400m away.

Claudia Rosi Toletti, 58, a high school German language teacher who lives in the same street, at first feared a terrorist attack had taken place.

"With this story about the Pope, the first thing I thought about was a bomb," she said, referring to widespread anger from Muslims around the world in response to recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI about Islam.

Milan's Fire Department said the blaze was put out about an hour after the explosion and rescue officials were combing through the ruins searching for people who might be trapped.

Fire officials said witnesses said they had smelled gas shortly before the explosion, at about 8pm local time (7pm BST).

Alessandra Rossi, a 40-year-old travel agent who lives nearby, said: "The front of the building had collapsed and you could see inside people's apartments."