MOSCOW, (Reuters) – A fire killed 37 people in a Russian psychiatric hospital yesterday, the second deadly blaze at such a facility this year, heightening concerns about Russia’s treatment of the mentally ill and other vulnerable wards of the state.
Fires have frequently claimed high tolls among residents of hospitals, schools and other state institutions over the past decade, raising questions about safety standards.
The pre-dawn fire razed a dilapidated ward for severely ill male patients at the hospital in a provincial village north of Moscow, apparently killing some while under sedation as fog slowed firefighters travelling from 45 km (28 miles) away.
Emergency and law enforcement authorities had recently sought to have the run-down wood, brick and concrete building condemned as unfit for use, a senior official said. Federal investigators began a criminal inquiry into suspected negligence.
State television showed firefighters spraying water on the smoking, blackened ruins of the hospital ward.
A female orderly died while trying to save patients at the hospital in the village of Luka, which is in Novgorod province between Moscow and St Petersburg, the regional branch of the federal Investigative Committee said in a statement.
It said 37 people were killed, and the Emergency Situations Ministry said 34 bodies had been recovered by 10 p.m. on Friday.
“Psychiatric hospitals are the worst of all,” said Yuri Savenko, president of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia. “Their condition is pathetic. It’s inevitable that such things will occur increasingly often.”