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9 dead in Russian nursing home fire

world Updated: Aug 30, 2010 12:39 IST

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A fire broke out early Monday at a Russian nursing home, killing nine people, and emergency officials said the blaze may have been started by a resident setting himself on fire.

A spokeswoman for the regional Emergencies Ministry, Daria Korovina, said the fire at the facility in Tver injured two others and forced the evacuation of some 480 people. Tver is about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Moscow.

Korovina said investigators found a canister of flammable liquid in the room where the fire started, leading to speculation the resident set himself ablaze. Russia suffers frequent fires at hospitals, schools and other state-run facilities. Many have been blamed on official negligence and violations of fire safety rules.

They have served as grim reminders of crumbling infrastructure and short life expectancy in Russia. Russia records nearly 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per capita rate in the United States and other Western countries.

In January 2009, a nursing home fire in the Komi region of Russia's northwest killed 23 resident. A November 2007 fire caused by a short circuit killed 32 patients in a nursing home in the Tula region south of Moscow.

In March 2007, 62 people died in a fire in another nursing home in southern Russia. A nearby fire station had been shut, and it took firefighters almost an hour to get to the site from a larger town after a night watchman ignored two fire alarms before reporting the blaze, authorities said.

Another nursing home fire the same year killed 10 people in Siberia. The fire alarm system functioned properly, but a nurse on duty was away at the time and failed to immediately alert patients and call firefighters. In December 2006, locked gates and barred windows prevented victims from escaping a blaze that killed 46 women at a drug treatment center. Inspectors had recommended its temporary closure earlier that year because of safety violations.