Fire at nursing home kills at least 10 in Siberia

A blaze swept through a nursing home in Siberia on Thursday, killing at least 10 people, officials said, the latest in a series of deadly fires in Russia, many of them caused by rampant neglect of safety rules.

Rescuers safely evacuated more than 300 patients from the nursing home in the village of Yekaterininskoye in Western Siberia's Omsk region after the fire erupted in the early hours Thursday, but 10 patients died in the blaze, said Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov.

He said the hospital fire alarm system functioned properly, but a nurse on duty was away at the moment it went off and failed to immediately alert patients and call firefighters. "The delay resulted in fatalities," Beltsov said.

He said the fire had apparently been caused by the violation of fire safety rules by patients, many of whom were drunk after a party the previous night.

Russia records nearly 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per capita rate in the United States and other Western countries. Deadly blazes at schools, hospitals and other state-run facilities in recent years have revealed official negligence and rampant violations of fire safety rules.

A fire in a nursing in the Azov Sea coast village of Kamyshevatskaya in southern Russia killed 62 people in March. A night watchman ignored two fire alarms before reporting the blaze.

In Kamyshevatskaya it took firefighters almost an hour to get to the site from a larger town, but on Thursday firefighters arrived at the nursing home in just five minutes after receiving word of the fire, Beltsov said.

He said that the nursing home had been checked twice recently by inspectors who found safety norms were duly observed. There were no violations, such as locked safety exits or barred windows, Beltsov said.

The Omsk regional administration said local authorities had spent over 20 million rubles (more than US$770,000 or euro570,000) over the last two years to renovate the nursing home building and it was considered one of the best in the region, the RIA Novosti news agency said.