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Tajik Fire Chief Defends Response To Deadly Blaze --> The fire completely gutted the children's home, leaving 13 dead (AFP) 9 January 2006 -- Tajikistan's fire chief today rejected suggestions that firefighters were slow to react to a blaze that swept through a home for disabled children, killing 13 of them, in the capital Dushanbe on 8 January.

Nazarboi Dzhangiev, head of the Kazakh State Fire Department, said a call about the fire came only an hour after it had started. He said seven fire brigades were at the scene five minutes after the call.

But the children's home's director, Sadullo Yatimov, said today that his employees had called the fire department immediately after seeing the blaze.

A district prosecutor's office has opened a criminal case against the home's economic director on charges of negligence. It said he had already been fined in November for breaking fire safety regulations.

A neighbor whose family helped evacuate children from the burning building told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that firefighters arrived at the scene only after all the survivors were outside.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, although unconfirmed reports initially suggested that an electrical problem might have sparked the blaze.


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