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Fire At Moscow Market Kills 17

  • RFE/RL

Firefighters inspect the aftermath of the blaze at a Moscow market that killed at least 17 people.

Firefighters inspect the aftermath of the blaze at a Moscow market that killed at least 17 people.

The death toll from a fire at a Moscow market warehouse has risen to 17. Authorities said most of the victims are thought to have been Tajik-speaking migrant workers.

Initial Russian media reports said most of the victims were from Tajikistan.

A spokesman for Tajikistan's Foreign Ministry told RFE/RL's Tajik Service, however, that Dushanbe was told by Russia's Interior Ministry that all 17 victims were citizens of Uzbekistan.

Confirmation from Russian or Uzbek officials was not immediately available.

Russian media report the owner of the market warehouse and the individual renting it out and employing the migrants have been detained by police for questioning.

Numerous Moscow markets employ low-cost laborers from impoverished Central Asian former Soviet republics.

The blaze erupted early on April 3 at a two-story warehouse at the Kachalovsky market in southern Moscow, which workers had turned into makeshift living quarters.

It took rescue workers two hours to extinguish the fire.

Firefighters battle the warehouse blaze.

Firefighters battle the warehouse blaze.

The cause is under investigation, but officials said there are suspicions it may have been caused by violations of fire safety regulations or an electric malfunction.

A spokesman for the Moscow city emergencies department said the workers used an insulated metal shed as their temporary living shelter. They reportedly slept in hard bunks in rows of four, with no direct access to the outside.

Emergency officials said the workers probably left an electric space heater on all night to stay warm.

Millions Of Undocumented Migrants

For years, Russia has drawn migrants from former Soviet republics in search of work.

Several million migrants from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan have come to Russia, where many have found work in the construction industry or at the city's markets.

But many of those who arrive do not have Russian work permits. Their employment is never officially reported to the authorities, and many end up living in apartment block basements or temporary housing.

Seven migrants were killed in January 2009 when a fire swept through an underground Moscow garage they were building and had also used as a temporary living shelter.

Another seven died in May 2011 when a fire engulfed an abandoned building in central Moscow.

The presence of Central Asian nationals and workers from the predominantly Muslim Caucasus region has also stirred racial tensions among some Russians and has resulted in a number of deadly attacks.

With reporting by AFP, ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and dpa
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