Fires leave 12 dead in Siberia

House-fires have caused devastation in two towns in central Russia. Nine people lost their lives in a blaze in the Krasnoyarsk region, while another fire left three dead in the Siberian town of Chita.

­The first fire broke out at around 0:51 local time (16:51 GMT) in the residential community of Nizhnyaya Poyma. Within four minutes, a neighbor had reported the blaze.

When local rescue services arrived, the house and all the outbuildings in the 180-square-meter area had already caught fire.

Seven residents – two adults and five children between the ages of four and 15 – were found dead, along with two guests.

Forensic experts have concluded that the blaze was caused by an overheated furnace.

After heating to its maximum in order to warm the house, residents forgot to put out the smouldering firewood which ignited the ceiling which then collapsed on the sleeping tenants.

Some 38 rescuers are currently working at the scene, backed by a dozen vehicles.

Due to the large number of underage victims, the investigation has been put under the control of local governor Lev Kuznetsov, according to Russian children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov.

“Every year hundreds of children die in fires, with drunk parents to blame more often than not,” Astakhov writes in his microblog, calling for fire protection services to perform checks and give safety advice to disadvantaged families with children ahead of the cold season.

However, according to a Lifenews website report, the family was quite well-off, with the father working as a driver in the local administration and his wife still on maternity leave. And a neighbor, who visited them earlier on Sunday, is quoted by Vedomosti website as saying that no alcohol was consumed by the victims.

Another fire was reported at 5:30 local time (21:30 GMT) in the town of Chita.

It took fire-fighters just six minutes to arrive at the scene; however the one-storey wooden structure was already well alight, and the only thing the rescuers were able to do was to prevent the fire from spreading.