Cold weather (close to minus 20 degrees Celsius) plus a danger that the remaining part of the building might collapse are major challenges being faced by the rescue teams, Dubrovsky said.
Local ambulance-service officials said seven people, including two children, were hospitalized.
Local officials said four survivors, including a child, were rescued from the rubble and taken to hospital. It happened before dawn when most residents were still asleep on the New Year's Eve.
This handout picture released by The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry shows emergency officers as they gather after a gas explosion rocked a residential building in Russia's Urals city of Magnitogorsk.
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One that was left hanging in the collapsed section of the building came crashing down as television stations aired live broadcasts from the scene.
Officials said that the fate of 79 people was unclear, with police working to locate their whereabouts.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has dispatched Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova to the city, Tass reported.
They said some residents could have been buried under debris after Monday's accident.
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Search and rescue efforts are underway for people still trapped inside, with over 400 emergency workers searching through the rubble.
The explosion shattered windows of nearby buildings, according to a local resident speaking on Echo of Moscow radio.
Almost 1,400 rescuers searched for people who might be buried under building debris in temperatures of -17 C. The forecast called for temperatures to plunge to -24 C overnight.
The cause of the gas explosion is not immediately known.
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There have been several similar incidents in Russian Federation in recent years due to aging infrastructure and poor safety regulations regarding gas usage.