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8 Dec, 2009 13:04

Russians solemn in memory of Perm tragedy

Russia is mourning the victims of the deadly Perm nightclub fire. The blaze claimed the lives of 113 people and left more than 120 injured.

The majority of the victims have been transferred to hospitals in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Chelyabinsk. Medics say the number of fatalities could rise as many people are in critical condition.

A three-day period of mourning has been declared in Perm since the tragedy. And on Monday, December 7, the country mourned for those killed and injured in the inferno.

On that same day, the first mass funerals took place in Perm.

Oleg Rosin is one of many who lost a friend in Friday’s blaze. If he and his wife had come to the Lame Horse club just 5 minutes earlier, he says they also would have died: 

“I carried people out, dead and alive – they’d been stacked and loaded into ambulances. I’m a paratrooper – I’ve seen a lot, but this is the worst… Girls’ tights were fused onto their burned bodies. I would never wish for even an enemy to watch this.”

The Spanish tenor, Alfon Djoris, was due to go on stage when the fire broke out.

“We heard somebody saying ‘don't come out’," Alfon told RT. "The make-up room was full of other performers. The lights went off. I used my cell phone for light and saw smoke; the smoke was coming in and I couldn't breathe. I thought: I will die here, we will all die here. People were paralyzed with fear, but I decided to start going.

We grabbed some pieces of clothing and soaked them in water, we covered our faces and started off towards the hallway. I first pulled the wrong door, it was the door leading into the club, and the flames poured out of there. I then rushed in a different direction, crawling. I heard somebody already breaking a door. We ran towards the voice and came out.”

Assisting Perm fire victims

Russia’s Minister of Health and Social Development, Tatyana Golikova, said that all in all, 91 people were transported to specialized burns units in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Chelyabinsk. She added that most of the victims have up to 50 percent burns on their body.

Some of the severely injured patients had been earlier transported to two clinics in Moscow with the best burn treatment units in the country. One of them is Vishevsky’s Surgery Institute.

Andrey Fyodorov, Vishnevsky’s Surgery Institute deputy director, says all the victims transferred to the Institute are in very grave conditions.

“They have burns on up to 80% of their bodies,” Fyodorov says. “They also have suffered severe smoke inhalation. Only one of them is conscious. We are doing all we can to help them. It’s impossible to treat such a large number of casualties in one place. That’s why some are being transferred to other hospitals and to us.”

Vladimir Fyodorov, Vishnevsky’s Surgery Institute director, claims that burn victims are very difficult to transport because they are in shock. “Moving them can make it worse. They received all the necessary treatment in Perm, including lung ventilation and, after that, they were transported here.”

Specialists say that burn victims are usually in critical conditions for about 3 days after they receive the burns because the body is trying to fight off the severe reactions that have happened to it.
Oleg Togoev, a doctor at the American Medical Centre in Moscow, warns that burns and smoke inhalation can have delayed effects.

“The severe damage of the upper airways is pretty rare," Togoev explained RT. "You should remember that symptoms may be absent from the very beginning, you can feel fine. But they can appear up to 66 hours after the inhalation of smoke. It will be a cough, a sense of irritation in the upper airways, maybe wheezing, some unpleasant feelings in the chest and, in that case, you should seek medical help. Burns differ in severity, and mild burns takes up to two weeks to fully complete healing. Severe burns can cause disabilities that last for a few months.”

The treatment of the victims of the fire is now a major operation. Those injured in the fire who need plastic surgery will have it free of charge, according to an announcement made on Saturday by the Ministry of Health and Social Development. Several private plastic surgery clinics have offered to provide help for free.

“Safety measures are far from effective”

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has visited the site of the tragedy to lay flowers at an impromptu memorial.

During an emergency meeting, he condemned the lack of action by state and local officials in enforcing fire safety regulations, and accused the club's management of negligence.

“I want to emphasize that the priority now is to attend to people and support them morally. We need to help the bereaved families, help them with all the formalities and support the people.

The tragic event in Perm, in a violent manner, showed us that our fire safety measures are far from effective.”

Putin noted that this incident was far from unique.

“[There was a fire in] the Republic of Komi, where dozens of elderly people died in a blaze, [and another] incident in the Arkhangelsk Region where 16 people – including children – were killed in a fire.

Similar events are happening here and there, and we must admit that the current measures are insufficient and ineffective. I will not repeat the facts that are already known to the whole country, but I still do not understand, how could one use pyrotechnics indoors, when it is written in Russian – do not use indoors!”

Investigation ongoing

Four people were arrested on Sunday in connection with the nightclub fire. They will remain in detention for two months.

The club’s co-founder Anatoly Zak, art director Oleg Fetkulov and executive director Svetlana Yefremova are charged with an unintended infringement of fire precautions committed by a person responsible for overseeing them and entailing the deaths of two or more people.

"This clause of the Criminal Code provides for imprisonment of up to seven years," the Investigation Committee said in an official report.

Sergey Derbenyov, the director of Pyrotsvet pyrotechnical company is charged with unintentionally causing the deaths of two or more people, the source stated.

"We have detained the entire management of the Lame Horse club,” investigators said. “The club's owner is in hospital. He is among the suspects in the nightclub fire case, but investigative actions with him have so far been impossible."

According to the investigators, all those charged knew about the fireworks and about the fact that their use is prohibited during events which include large numbers of people.

Marina Zabbarova, head of the Prosecutor General's Office Investigation Committee, said on Sunday, that the cause of the fire might have been a short circuit.

“But the reason for the people’s deaths was a fire which caused inhalation of smoke, carbon monoxide poisoning and burns of upper airways,” Zabbarova added.