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Russia Mourns 113 Victims Of Nightclub Blaze


Russia Mourning
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WATCH: Russia pays its respects to those killed in the Perm nightclub inferno.

(RFE/RL) -- Russia today is observing a national day of mourning as grieving relatives continue to bury the victims of the December 4 nightclub blaze in the city of Perm, an industrial city some 1,100 kilometers southeast of Moscow.

The fire, Russia's worst in decades, killed 113 people and seriously wounded more than 120. Doctors say many of the injured have burns over more than 50 percent of their bodies and are in critical condition. Most of the victims were in their 20s and 30s.

A steady stream of mourners came to lay flowers and light candles outside the charred ruins of the Lame Horse nightclub.

Perm residents like Sergei have been shocked by the tragedy.

"It's a nightmare, it's awful," he said. "Nobody could have imagined such a tragedy happening in the city center. It's unbelievable."

Relatives mourn over the coffin of a victim of the nightclub fire during funeral ceremonies outside Perm.
The blaze at the Lame Horse began when sparks from a fireworks show set fire to the wicker coverings on the ceiling, causing a stampede as some 230 clubgoers rushed toward a single narrow exit.

The club's owner, two managers, and the man who organized the firework show have been arrested and were remanded in custody on December 6 by a court in Perm on charges of manslaughter and fire-safety violations.

Authorities say the nightclub was not equipped with automatic fire extinguishers and that the fireworks should not have been used indoors.

They accuse club staff of ignoring repeated orders to comply with safety standards, with President Dmitry Medvedev blasting them as for having "neither brains nor shame."

Marina Zabbarova, the head of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Investigative Committee for the Perm region, voiced her outrage at a news conference on December 6.

"When will this chaos end in Russia? How could a restaurant possibly have opened in a place that has only one exit of this size?" Zabbarova said. "How could one have made such ceilings, covered with such flammable material?"

But ordinary citizens are angry at authorities, too, saying official corruption had allowed the club to ignore basic fire rules for years.

Enforcement of fire-safety regulations is poor in Russia, where officials routinely use fire-safety checks to extract bribes. More than 17,000 people die every year in fires across the country.

Last year, two barmen were sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail for causing a blaze that killed 10 people in a Moscow nightclub in 2007. The pair had lit alcohol on the bar as part of a show.