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54 Russians Die In Weekend Institution Blazes
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 11, 2006

MOSCOW, RUSSIA--Nine patients at a Siberian psychiatric hospital perished in a fire early Sunday -- one day after 45 people died from a fire at a Moscow drug treatment facility.

A spokesperson for Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry told the Associated Press that the staff at the two-story psych facility in the Siberian town of Taiga tried for nearly an hour and a half to put out the fire on their own before reporting it to authorities. Fifteen surviving patients were hospitalized, some for burns and some for broken bones from jumping out of second-story windows. About 200 other residents were evacuated into blizzard conditions.

Authorities said later that the blaze might have been intentionally set.

The early Saturday fire that swept through the drug treatment center in Moscow was most likely arson caused, said Russia's chief fire inspector Yuri Nenashev. The 43 female patients and two staff who died at the facility were reportedly trapped inside one unit, unable to get through the iron bars or locked doors designed to keep the recovering addicts from escaping. About 300 other patients and staff escaped unharmed.

"Thick iron bars on the windows, iron doors and cruel treatment are intended to subdue hospital patients," Kamilzhan Kalandarov, a member of a government-appointed rights group told the RIA Novosti news agency. "The death toll in a Moscow fire wouldn't have been that high without barred windows."

The fires are one example of Russia's disregard for people it institutionalizes, some experts noted.

Last winter, fire officials called for the Moscow drug treatment facility to be closed at least temporarily after they discovered safety problems.

"Eight dead in Russia clinic" (BBC News)
"45 women die as fire sweeps Moscow clinic" (Associated Press via Toronto Star)


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