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Blaze victims mourned

Tuesday has been declared a day of mourning in Russia's Tula region, where 32 people were killed in a fire at a retirement home on Sunday. The local administration has said it is going to arrange and pay for the funerals.

The victims were caught by surprise as the blaze ripped through the 55-year-old wooden building in Tula, 200 kilometres south of Moscow.

It took firefighters five hours to extinguish the blaze which had engulfed 1700 square metres.

Around 300 people managed to escape when the fire broke out Sunday afternoon, although a decision not to immediately evacuate the second floor, where the blaze first broke out, may have cost more lives.

Dozens of survivors are being treated for smoke inhalation and burns. Others were either sheltered by the retirement home’s staff, who live in nearby villages, or taken to bigger retirement facilities, where they were provided with temporary accommodation.

The authorities now need to provide something permanent for them.

Short circuit or negligence
Preliminary results indicate an electrical short circuit was the cause, according to the Deputy Governor of the Tula region, Aleksey Korablev.

Some say the central heating system wasn’t fully turned on and a lot of the residents were using heaters, which could have put an additional burden on the electrical system.

There has also been speculation about human negligence and breaches of fire safety regulations.

Fire safety violations, including the lack of an alarm system, had prompted moves to close the home in the past, according to a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry, Viktor Beltsov.

Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has ordered a thorough investigation into the tragedy, and said that victims will be provided with everything they need.

A special commission is to determine the exact list of victims.

Sad history of fires
Russia records nearly 18,000 deaths from fire every year, several times the per-capita rate in the United States and other Western countries.

The Tula fire is the third in a series of fatal blazes in Russian retirement homes this year alone.

Sixty-two people died in a nursing home in Russia's southern Krasnodar region in March.

In May, five people died and thirteen others were injured when a fire broke out at a mental institution in the Rostov region in Russia's south. Efforts by doctors, working at the clinic, saved more lives.

In June, ten people were killed in a fire at a nursing home in Siberia, where 317 people resided. Broken fire safety rules and poor maintenance is often blamed for the fires.