TASHKENT: A gas explosion tore through a flat in Uzbekistan killing at least five people, officials said Monday, as residents facing a brutal energy crisis resort to makeshift heat sources.

Gas and electricity shortages in the Central Asian country have led to the sacking of a slew of senior officials this month, as Uzbekistan struggles under historically low temperatures.

The resource rich ex-Soviet nation is plagued by ageing energy infrastructure, which regularly leads to deadly incidents.

The emergencies ministry said the explosion on Sunday damaged a four-storey building in the city of Nukus, the administrative centre of the autonomous Karakalpakstan region, which last summer saw deadly protests over self-determination.

The ministry said rescue workers pulled five bodies from the rubble and that an injured five-year-old girl was taken to hospital.

The blast was triggered by an “air-gas mixture” in an apartment on the top floor, it added.

The impoverished region of Karakalpakstan covers more than a third of Uzbekistan but is home to just two million people.

According to state statistics, around 150 people died last year from carbon monoxide poisoning in Uzbekistan, the most populous country in Central Asia with around 35 million people.

Temperatures in the capital Tashkent plunged to just above -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) earlier this month. -AFP

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