Panic as Russia mistakenly reports 55 deaths from ‘toxic gas’

Panic as Russia mistakenly reports 55 deaths from ‘toxic gas’
Vehicles drives along the M54 Yenisei Federal Highway during sunset outside Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, October 3, 2013.

MOSCOW - Russians in Siberia were thrown into momentary panic on Friday when the emergencies ministry mistakenly issued a press release reporting 55 people had died from inhaling toxic chlorine gas.

Emergency services on Friday were holding scheduled drills across the vast country involving various disaster scenarios such as deadly explosions and fires.

The scenario concocted by officials for Tyumen - an industrial region of 3.6 million people about 1,700 kilometres (1,000 miles) east of Moscow - involved a toxic emission of chlorine gas at a waterworks.

But things went horribly wrong when the press office of Tyumen's emergencies ministry issued a statement reporting an "accident that resulted in the death of three workers and 52 members of the public."

The press release added that a toxic chlorine cloud was rapidly spreading across the region's capital, also called Tyumen, and its northeastern areas.

The news was instantly picked up by Russia's state-run RIA Novosti news agency and radio stations such as nationally-syndicated Moscow Echo.

It took about five minutes for officials to realise their mistake and issue a corrected version of the statement explaining that this was all just a training exercise and no one was really hurt.

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