Over 85 rescued after several floors collapse at university in St. Petersburg (VIDEOS)

A university building has partially collapsed in the city of St. Petersburg, forcing frightened students and lecturers to flee through thick plumes of dust while some filmed the scene. More than 85 people were safely evacuated.

The incident occurred at the Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics University on Saturday afternoon, while lectures were in progress. Local administration told media that as many as 21 people may have been trapped under the rubble.

The emergency services later confirmed that 86 people were safely evacuated from the building and no bodies have been found during rescue. The university rector, Vladimir Vasylyev, said that no people remained trapped under the rubble.

Photos from the scene show a gaping hole in the building’s roof. Pictures, believed to have been taken inside the university, show corridors engulfed by a thick plume of dust, with a ceiling badly damaged.

The moment of the collapse appears to have been caught on camera. A video uploaded online shows a ceiling on one of the floors cracking as plaster drops to the ground. As disaster looms, the person holding the camera continues to film, and flees only as the ceiling collapses and the electricity is cut off.

The incident was likely caused by construction works at the building, where the top floors have partially collapsed.

A criminal investigation into the collapse has been launched, Russia’s Investigative Committee has said.

Apart from a reconstruction failure, no other causes that might have triggered the collapse are currently being investigated, St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Aleksandr Beglov told media on Saturday.

“There can only be one version which is linked to the reconsruction of this building. There can be no other versions, nothing extreme,” Beglov said.

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