Fire at Moscow hospital: more people evacuated

A fire broke out at a Moscow hospital Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of patients, an emergency official said. The blaze broke out just before 10 a.m. (0700GMT) at the Oncological Center in a southern district of the Russian capital, said Viktor Beltsov, of the Emergency Situations Ministry.

He said the fire appeared to have started in the basement, filling one of the main buildings at the large complex with smoke and forcing firefighters to evacuate some 500 people. No casualties were initially reported.

The fire was the second to hit Moscow hospitals in two months. In November, a fire at Seventh Clinical Hospital killed four patients and forced the evacuation of dozens of others. Last month, a fire at a home for the mentally ill outside Moscow, killed seven people and injuring a dozen others.

Russia records about 18,000 fire deaths a year, roughly 10 times the rate in the United States and 12.5 times higher than in Britain, due in part to lax enforcement of regulations and shoddy building construction. President Vladimir Putin has called on fire-safety agencies to do a better job, reports the AP. N.U.