38 die in mental hospital fire outside Moscow

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By NATALIYA VASILYEVA, Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — A fire swept quickly through a psychiatric hospital outside Moscow early Friday, killing at least 38 people, most of them in their beds, officials said.

Health Ministry officials said that the one-story hospital housed patients with severe mental disorders. Vadim Belovoshin from the emergency situations ministry official told the Itar-TASS news agency that the windows in the hospital were barred but said there were two fire escapes.

Belovoshin also said that it took fire fighters an hour to get to the hospital following an emergency call because a ferry across the canal was closed and the fire fighters had to make a detour.

Officials from the Russian Investigative Committee said they are looking at poor fire regulations and short circuit as possible causes for the hospital fire in the Ramenskoye settlement.

Investigators listed 38 people — 36 patients and two doctors — as dead. Only one nurse and two patients managed to escape, according to the health ministry. The emergency services also posted a list of the patients indicating they ranged in age from 20 to 76.

Moscow region governor Andrei Vorobyev told Russian state-television that the fire alarm seems to have worked but the fire spread too quickly. Belovoshin said the fire first broke in a wooden annex.

A spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee told Russian news agencies that most of the people died in their beds and did not try to escape.

Deadly fires are common in Russia because of wide-spread violations of fire safety rules.

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