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3 Feb, 2009 07:25

Komi mourns fire victims

A day of mourning has been announced in Russia’s Komi republic where a fire at a nursing home killed 23 people.

Orthodox churches in the region are holding services and broadcasters have cancelled entertainment programmes.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry said the absence of a fire alarm system in the home contributed to Saturday’s tragedy.

It also took fire fighters 25 minutes to reach the scene 20km away, which may have added to the death toll.

Extreme cold (-36C at the time) has also been cited as a contributing factor.

Authorities in Komi say there weren’t enough staff on duty at the time of the fire. Many elderly and infirm residents died because there were not enough able-bodied people on hand to help the escape.

When the fire broke out, a security guard helped three residents escape the flames. But 23 others lost their lives in the blaze that quickly spread through the old wooden building.

A criminal case has been launched into the incident.

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the Prosecutor General's office to look into the incident and brief him about the cause of the fire.

According to the Emergencies Ministry, the director of the nursing home had been fined twice for violating fire safety rules.