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VELIKY NOVGOROD, September 13 (Itar-Tass) - Initial reports indicated 6 people died in a fire, which broke out at a mental health care home Oksochi in the district centre Malaya Vishera in Novgorod Region, Central Russia, the regional government told Itar-Tass on Friday. Their corpses have been found by the rescuers when parsing the rubble at the fire's site.
The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations later confirmed the death of 12 people in the fire. “According to the reports at 12:00 Moscow time, 12 people were found dead at the fire site at a mental health care clinic Oksochi in the village Luki,” the information department of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations told Itar-Tass.
How the fire broke out
The fire broke out at 02:52 am Moscow time at the men’s ward of the mental health care clinic, where about 60 people were staying. The clinic building is a one-story wooden building, 100 meters by 30 meters in square. The fire has been put out as for now. As many as 72 emergency workers and 16 units of machinery were working at the fire site.
The regional law enforcement agencies are investigating several possible causes of fire, “including arson and careless smoking,” Itar-Tass reported.
“It is early to say about the reasons for the fire so far, the fire has just been extinguished. The cleanup of the clinic debris continues. A fire expertise will be needed to find the reasons for the fire,” a source in the local division the Ministry of Emergency Situations said.
However, arson is considered as the main possible cause of the tragedy. According to the medical staff, a man enveloped in the fire ran out from the ward. A duty nurse’s aide told the medical nurse about the fire breaking out in the ward, a fire truck with a fire pump arrived to the mental home three minutes later.
“A team of detectives headed by acting head of the investigation department of the Russian Investigative Committee in Novgorod Region Yekaterina Gilina went to the fire site. An inquiry prior to the investigation is being conducted,” senior aide to the local chief detective Lyudmila Sergeyeva told Itar-Tass.
About 60 people were staying at the mental health care clinic, more than 20 of them were evacuated by the clinic’s authorities. The fate of 31 patient remains unclear. “But this does not mean that they died,” head of the information department of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Oleg Voronov told Itar-Tass on Friday. Earlier it was reported about a death toll of at least 14 patients.
The mental health care clinic is keeping men over 60 years and women over 55 years and heavily disabled people over 18 years, who have chronic mental disorders and need permanent medical care.
Clinic should have been shut down
The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) and the prosecutor’s office have been seeking for a mental health care home to be shut down in court, but the court obliged the directorate of the clinic to eliminate violations, director of the supervising department of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Yuri Deshevykh told Itar-Tass on Friday.
“The burnt clinic building was unsuitable for use. The supervising emergency situation authority have turned to different agencies and have been seeking for this clinic building to be shut down in court together with the prosecutor’s office. The court ruled to eliminate violations before August 1, 2014,” he said.