At least 63 elderly people burn alive at nursing home in Russia

A fire swept through a nursing home in southern Russia on Tuesday, killing at least 63 people, emergency officials said.

It took firefighters nearly an hour to get from the nearest sizable town to the nursing home in the Azov Sea coast village of Kamyshevatskaya, where there is no fire station, said Sergei Petrov, a duty officer at the Emergency Situations Ministry's southern branch.

He said 63 people were killed, one was missing and 33 were injured. There were 97 people in the two-story brick building when the fire broke out, including four employees.

The devastating nighttime fire came less than 24 hours after a methane gas blast at a Siberian coal mine killed at least 97 people in Russia's deadliest mining disaster in a decade.

Emergency workers received a signal alerting them to the fire shortly after 1 a.m. and headed for the scene from Yeisk, a town about 35 kilometers (22 miles) away, arriving nearly an hour after the signal, Petrov said. The fire was put out at about 5 a.m., he said.

It was the latest in a number of deadly blazes at schools, dormitories, hospitals and other state-run facilities that have plagued Russia in recent years, underlining rampant violations of fire safety rules and official negligence.

A fire at a Moscow drug treatment facility in December killed 45 women who were trapped behind locked gates and barred windows. A blaze a day later killed nine patients at a clinic for the mentally ill in Siberia, the AP reports.

Russia records nearly 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per capita rate in the United States and other Western countries. Last year, according to the Emergency Situations Ministry, an average of just under 600 fires were recorded daily, killing a total of 17,650 people in the nation of 142 million - down nearly 7 percent from 2005 but still working out to almost 50 fire deaths every day.

Over the past year, the ministry has published lists of dozens of buildings, including medical facilities and schools, where glaring fire safety violations endangering lives were discovered. Many have been corrected, it says.

State-run Channel One television reported that the nursing home in Kamyshevatskaya, in the Krasnodar region, had recently been renovated and a new fire alarm system installed.

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