Tue, Dec 08, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Four detained in Russian club fire, death toll at 112

AP , PERM, RUSSIA

Workers dig graves yesterday in preparation for a day of funerals for the victims of a nightclub blaze outside Perm on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

Grieving relatives on Sunday begin to bury the victims of a nightclub fire that left at least 112 people dead, as four people were ordered held pending an investigation into the country’s worst blaze in decades.

About 130 people remained hospitalized with injuries from the early Saturday blaze, which witnesses said was sparked by onstage fireworks that shot into the decorative twig ceiling of the Lame Horse club in the industrial city of Perm.

The federal Investigative Committee said the suspects — the club’s owner, the executive director, the artistic director and a businessman hired to install pyrotechnics on the night of the blaze — were ordered taken into custody Sunday by Leninsky District Court.

The committee’s Web site said they were suspected of negligence causing multiple deaths and violating fire safety rules causing multiple deaths.

Mourning residents of the Ural Mountain city of more than 1 million were indignant over the alleged negligence in a country where enforcement of fire safety standards is infamously poor and there have been several catastrophic blazes at drug-treatment facilities, nursing homes, apartment buildings and nightclubs in recent years.

Nadezhda Zhizhina placed flowers on the icy ground outside the Perm City Morgue in memory of her 21-year-old son, Sergei, who she said left behind a wife who was eight months pregnant.

She wasn’t expecting the compensation officials have promised to other victims’ relatives because Sergei earned money at the club as an unofficial administrator.

“I can’t even imagine what to do,” Zhizhina said, weeping. “He was a golden boy.”

The disaster outraged even those who didn’t lose relatives.

“This is nothing but criminal negligence,” Marina Dryonina said. “A terrible tragedy for our town.”

Many victims were trapped in a panicked crush for the exit as they attempted to escape the flames and thick black smoke.

Russian news agencies named the owner as Anatoly Zak. The pyrotechnics expert was named as Sergei Dergunov by his lawyer, Yekaterina Golysheva.

Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the club managers had been fined twice in the past for breaking fire safety regulations.

Russian clubs and restaurants often cover ceilings with plastic insulation and a layer of willow twigs to create a rustic look, one of many uses of combustible materials in buildings by businessmen who bribe officials to look the other way.

The nation records up to 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per capita rate in the US and other Western countries.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has demanded that lawmakers draft changes to toughen the criminal punishment for failing to comply with fire safety standards.

Yesterday was designated a national day of mourning, with entertainment events and television programs canceled.

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