38 People Killed in Fire at Russian Psychiatric Hospital

Thirty-eight people died after a fire raged through a psychiatric hospital outside Moscow early today, prompting a call by President Vladimir Putin for a full investigation into the tragedy.

Forty-one people, including three staff, were in the single-story building when the fire began, according to the Emergency Ministry. Thirty-eight bodies were recovered, while three people escaped the blaze, the ministry said on its website.

Putin ordered Moscow Region Governor Andrei Vorobyov and government agencies and ministries to “determine all the circumstances and causes of the tragedy that took place, conduct a necessary investigation and extend help to survivors,” according to a statement on the Kremlin’s website.

The fire began at about 3 a.m. and may have been caused by arson, an electrical short-circuit or another malfunction, the state news service RIA Novosti reported. Most of the patients died in their sleep from inhaling fumes from the blaze, RIA reported, citing a police official who declined to be named.

Firefighters took more than an hour to reach the site because the nearest station was 51 kilometers (32 miles) away, according to Interfax.

One of the survivors testified that a patient probably caused the fire, RIA reported, citing a representative of the regional branch of the Investigative Committee. The inmates of the psychiatric hospital weren’t locked in their rooms, a nurse who escaped the blaze was cited as saying by the news agency.

According to a list provided by the Emergency Ministry, the oldest of the 41 people in the hospital at the time of the blaze was born in 1937 and the youngest was in 1993.

Lax standards and disregard for fire safety have led to deadly blazes in Russia. Last year, 11,635 people died in fires across the country, the Emergency Ministry said. In September, at least 10 people believed to be Vietnamese citizens died in a fire at a clothing factory in the Moscow region.

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