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of the British Broadcasting Corporation



Monday, 5 November 2007, 11:59 GMT
Russian care home fire kills 30

A fire that engulfed a retirement home south of Moscow has killed at least 30 people, emergency officials say.

The blaze swept through the two-storey building on Sunday in the village of Velye Nikolskoye, about 30km (20 miles) from the city of Tula.

The building's wooden structures were not fire-proofed and it had no fire alarm, Viktor Beltsov of the Russian ministry of emergency situations said.

Ten people died in a fire at a Siberian retirement home in June.

According to Mr Beltsov, at Velye Nikolskoye the alarm was raised late and the huge blaze raged for hours. It was finally put out on Sunday night, after 22 firefighting vehicles had rushed to the scene.

It is not yet clear what triggered the fire. There are suspicions that an electrical short circuit was to blame.

Mr Beltsov said the fire authorities had previously tried to get a court order to close the retirement home because its safety systems were inadequate.

Speaking on Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio, he said: "There was no automatic fire detection or fire alarm system in the building".

He also said that by the time the fire service reached the scene the blaze already covered an area of more than 1,000sq m (10,760sq ft).

More than 250 people escaped from the fire or were evacuated.

In addition to the fatal fire in the Omsk region of Siberia in June, 63 people died in March when a fire gutted a nursing home in the Krasnodar region of southern Russia.