36 patients, 2 staff members killed in fire at Moscow region clinic

A fire that erupted at a psychiatric hospital in the Moscow region last night claimed the lives of 36 patients and two staff members, the hospital's head doctor said. Two patients and a nurse survived.

"The blaze destroyed one of the psychiatric hospital's buildings - a 50-bed wooden building dating back to 1952," the head doctor said.

There were 38 patients and three staff members in the building when the fire broke out, the head doctor said.

"Two patients and one medical nurse survived," she said.

The fire at Psychiatric Hospital No. 14, located in the Ramensky village in the Dmitrov district (the north of the Moscow region), has already been extinguished.

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A source in the Moscow region's healthcare sector has said that the patients were under the influence of prescribed strong medicines and were unable to promptly respond to the situation. These medicines were prescribed to the patients legally.

The fire was first detected by one of the nurses, Yury Deshevykh, director of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry's oversight department, told.

The nurse spotted the blaze after the building's fire alarm went off, he said. The woman tried to put out the blaze on her own using a fire extinguisher, but the fire spread further, he added.

Some windows at the fire-stricken psychiatric hospital were not fitted with security bars, the fire alarm went off in the building and individual fire safety items were available, but the patients were unable to use them, the Moscow region's acting governor Andrei Vorobyev said.

"The fire spread very rapidly. The fire alarm went off, but only two people [hospital patients] managed to leave the building," he said.

Describing the clinic building, Vorobyev said that "some windows were fitted with security bards, but some were not."

"It is up to investigators to find out whether the presence of these bars resulted [in the people's death] or not," he said.

Rescuers have already found body fragments of all victims of the fire at a psychiatric hospital in the Moscow region, a source from the regional police told Interfax.
"Body fragments that may belong to all the 38 victims have been found," he said.

A criminal investigation has been started on counts of violations of fire safety rules resulting in the death of two or more people.

Investigators have tentatively blamed careless handling of fire and a short circuit for the accident. A theory suggesting arson is being investigated as well.

A patient who survived claims that one of the newly arrived patients smoked frequently the day before in violation of hospital rules, Irina Gumennay spokesperson for the Russian Investigative Committee's Moscow region branch, told.

"One of the patients who survived the fire has been questioned. He said that a new patient who was admitted to hospital the day before allegedly suffered from drug withdrawal symptoms and smoked all the time in violation of the clinic's rules," she said.

The patient has told police that he woke up last night and saw a sofa burning in the recreation room, Gumennaya said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already instructed the officials to establish all circumstances and reasons behind the tragedy, conduct the required investigation and extend assistance to those who survived the fire at the psychiatric hospital, the president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov told.

The Moscow region will observe a day of mourning on Saturday.

"Acting Governor Andrei Vorobyev has declared April 27 a day of mourning," a spokesman for the governor's administration told Interfax.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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