Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Fire Ravages Russian Psychiatric Hospital, Killing 38

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Fire Ravages Russian Psychiatric Hospital, Killing 38

Article excerpt

The fire spread so quickly that patients, many of them given antipsychotic drugs before sleep, died in their beds. President Vladimir V. Putin called for sweeping checks of medical facilities.

A fire raged through a wood-and-brick psychiatric hospital outside Moscow early on Friday morning, killing 38 people, mostly patients who died in their beds as firefighters made the hourlong journey from the nearest station, safety officials said.

A nurse tried to extinguish the fire and evacuate patients, but it spread so quickly through the 73-year-old structure that she was able to lead only one patient to safety before the building was consumed, according to Yuri Deshovykh, director of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry's oversight department, in comments to the Interfax news agency. Of the 41 people in the building, only 3 survived.

Fires in Russian nursing homes and medical facilities have repeatedly resulted in dozens of deaths, in some cases because their patients were locked in.

Investigators said on Friday, however, that the patients in Psychiatric Hospital No. 14, in the village of Ramensky, were not locked in and could have left the building if they had woken up. More than two-thirds of the patients regularly took powerful antipsychotic medications before going to bed, Veronika Skvortsova, Russia's health minister, told reporters. Most died of burns or carbon monoxide poisoning.

"All victims were found in their beds," Mr. Deshovykh said. "There was no one in the corridor. Even the dead bodies of two nurses were found in their recreation room."

A stream of officials visited the site of the fire, which President Vladimir V. Putin called an "awful tragedy which took many lives." Mr. Putin ordered his subordinates to begin sweeping checks of medical facilities, calling the fire "yet another reminder that safety must be taken seriously. …

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