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Georgian Leader Vows Punishment Over Hotel Fire That Killed 11


The authorities said more than 100 people, including guests and employees, were evacuated.

BATUMI, Georgia -- Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili has vowed to punish those responsible for a fire that killed 11 people at a five-star hotel in the country's Black Sea resort city of Batumi.

Kvirikashvili was returning to Tbilisi from a summit with European Union leaders in Brussels late on November 24 when he heard about the fire at the 22-story Leogrand Hotel and diverted his plane to Batumi.

"All those responsible for this tragedy will be punished," Kvirikashvili said.

Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia told journalists on November 25 that an investigation had been launched into the "breach of fire-safety norms" at the hotel, which reportedly lacked a fire-escape staircase.

Georgia's Interior Ministry downgraded an initially reported death toll of 12 to 11 people on November 25, saying the dead included 10 Georgian citizens and one citizen of Iran.

Georgia's Interpress news agency quoted relatives of victims who said eight victims were found in a hotel elevator while one was in a swimming pool and two more were found in a gym.

The ministry said the victims all died from smoke inhalation.

The ministry also said 21 people were hospitalized, mostly from smoke inhalation, and were in stable condition.

Among those being treated were five Turks and an Israeli, regional Health Minister Zaal Mikeladze said.

The authorities said more than 100 people, including guests and employees, were evacuated.

Kakha Mikiashvili, one of the hotel guests, told journalists that it "took just minutes for the smoke to fill the entire hotel."

"The electricity went off and all the doors were automatically blocked," Mikiashvili said. "We were trying in vain to break windows to get some fresh air. Firefighters arrived in a few minutes and we were saved."

The cause of the fire was still under investigation on November 25.

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili on November 25 offered his condolences to the relatives of victims.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, BBC, Interpress, dpa, and TASS

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