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Fire At Russian Psychiatric Hospital Kills 38

  • RFE/RL

Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry says a fire that engulfed a psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Moscow has killed 38 people, two of them medical workers.

The fire at Hospital No. 14 in the town of Ramensky in Moscow Oblast broke out early on April 26. Flames reportedly spread quickly through the wooden building.

In an interview on Russian television, the acting governor of Moscow Oblast, Andrei Vorobyov, described what happened.

"The fire broke out at night.... There was a fire alarm and the nurse reacted to that," he said. "At the same time, our security post, which is 300 meters away from this ward of the hospital, sent an alarm, so the security guard ran to the building to try to help."

The ministry’s information service reported three people got out alive -- two patients and a nurse.

Firefighters were reportedly delayed about 20 minutes in their efforts to reach the scene because a bridge over a creek had been removed because of high water.

Irina Gumennaya, a spokeswoman for the local branch of the Investigative Committee, said the investigation into the tragedy is proceeding.

"At the present time, the investigation is considering several possible versions of the cause of the fire, the most likely of which are that the fire was due to the careless handling of fire or due to electrical short circuit," she said. "According to preliminary information obtained from the scene, it was found that the fire started in one of the wards of a building of the psychiatric hospital."

All of the bodies have been recovered.

Vorobyov asked journalists and the public not to rush to judgment about the tragedy and to give investigators time to do their work.

He added that President Vladimir Putin had authorized state assistance to the families of the victims. The relatives of those who died will receive $16,000 and the survivors will be given $4,800.

News agencies are reporting that a criminal investigation into the incident has been launched.

The windows on the lower floor of the building were covered with bars.

The Interfax news agency reported preliminary findings that most of the dead died of burns, rather than smoke inhalation.

Interfax also reported that patients may have been given drugs before sleep that prevented them from waking up or left them too disoriented to escape the blaze.

Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said the incident underscores the need for greater transparency in Russia's psychiatric hospitals.

The Health Ministry has ordered that all such facilities in the country undergo fire-safety inspections before June 1.

With reporting by Russia-24, ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and RIA Novosti