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Families bury dead from Russian nightclub blaze

Victims of a Russian nightclub blaze that killed 112 people were buried Sunday, with angry mourners claiming lax oversight by authorities led to one of the country's worst recent tragedies.

world Updated: Dec 06, 2009 18:24 IST

Victims of a Russian nightclub blaze that killed 112 people were buried Sunday, with angry mourners claiming lax oversight by authorities led to one of the country's worst recent tragedies.

About 100 hundred people, most in their early 20s, stood grim and silent in the city's snow-covered cemetery for the funeral of one of the nightclub's barmen, 26-year-old Timur Parfiryev.

The funeral was one of three on Sunday.

"Timur pulled friends out of the fire and died after he ran into the flames again," a man who gave his name only as Andrei said, adding Parfiryev's widow was pregnant with their first child. "They found him when they were searching the ruins," he said, blaming the "corrupt authorities" for poor fire safety enforcement at the club.

The death toll in the blaze rose to 112 Sunday as a woman died in hospital, a Perm regional emergency services spokeswoman said.

Another 90 burn victims were flown for critical care to Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Chelyabinsk, the emergency services said in a statement.

Flames set by fireworks quickly caught on the wood and straw decor at the Lame Horse nightclub early Saturday, witnesses said, causing panic as some 230 club-goers stampeded and choked on smoke as they rushed to flee.

In the wake of the tragedy, authorities accused club managers of ignoring repeated orders to comply with safety standards, with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev condemning them as without "brains nor conscience".

The owner and manager of the Perm nightclub have been arrested, as were three other workers.

Blaze survivors blogging on the popular Russian Internet site Livejournal Sunday described how fast the blaze ignited and spread.

No more than an hour after the start of the blaze, rescue workers were piling bodies outside and hysteric club-goers, their clothes charred by flames, searched for friends, witnesses wrote.

"Fireworks flew. The ceiling caught fire immediately and flared up, it was all made out of wood and twigs!" one woman blogger, who said she worked at the club, posted under the name pan.andriy.

"When I got out of the nightclub, rescue workers were already carrying out bodies. The panic was horrendous. For the 300 guests, there was only one narrow door and a frightening crush there," she said.

Another Livejournal user, yakimovmihail, said he joined in the rescue efforts after walking by the site of the fire.

"I saw a man in rags, with no hair or eyelashes," he wrote. "But the awful part started five minutes or so later when the firefighters arrived. That's when they began to drag the people out."

"I had a flashlight, and I was doing what I could... lifting the victims' eyelids and pointing the flashlight into their eyes. The count for those alive and dead was about 50-50," he wrote.

The tragedy highlighted lax enforcement of fire safety laws in Russia, where the death rate from fires is several times higher than in the West.

Perm is a city of around a million people and lies about 1,200 kilometres (700 miles) east of Moscow in Russia's Ural mountains.