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Deadly blaze devours ‘illegal shelter’ in Russia

Fire broke out at an unregistered shelter for the homeless elderly, Kemerovo officials say

At least 13 people have died in the Siberian city of Kemerovo on Friday, after a private residence caught fire. Dozens of firefighters and emergency crews managed to contain the blaze. Authorities said the building belonged to a local Protestant church, and was being improperly used as a homeless shelter for the elderly.

The fire was detected shortly after 10 pm, the Emergency Ministry told reporters. Some 28 vehicles and 80 firefighters were dispatched to handle the flames. Initial reports spoke of 11 deaths, but that number has since increased. The death toll may rise further, as seven people are still listed as missing.

The victims appear to be the elderly residents of an unregistered homeless shelter, an Emergency Ministry official told Interfax. At the moment, the authorities suspect the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction, as “the wiring probably could not handle that many heaters,” the official said. 

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The undocumented nursing home did not have any fire-suppression systems, normally required of legally registered institutions.

Last year, the acting head of the Emergency Ministry lamented an “epidemic” of fire deaths in Russia due to people skirting regulations.

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“There would be fewer losses if evacuation routes weren’t blocked, if signs were turned on, if smoke filtration worked, and so on. Right now it’s still easier for a business to buy off a regulatory agency than implement the requirements,” Alexander Chupriyan told RBK.

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Kemerovo, a city between Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk in southeastern Siberia, is notorious for the March 2018 fire that engulfed a shopping center, killing 60 people – most of them children. Another 80 were injured, along with many animals at a petting zoo located inside the building.

Investigators later found that the mall had been improperly converted from an old factory. The owners had turned into a “death trap” by not putting in emergency exits and fire suppression systems, while corrupt local officials turned a blind eye to safety violations.

December 24, 2022 at 04:24AM
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