Russian nightclub blaze kills 109

Indoor fireworks show goes awry; Medvedev demands tough punishment for culprits

Russian nightclub blaze kills 109

Nightmare: Rescuers carry bodies in front of the Lame Horse restaurant in Perm, Russia, on Friday.

The fireworks show went disastrously wrong at about 11:15 pm (2015 GMT) on Friday, filling the Lame Horse nightclub in the city of Perm, 1,150 km east of Moscow, with toxic smoke and sowing panic among clubbers.

Russian television showed Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu telling President Medvedev during a teleconference from Perm that the death toll of the night fire had reached 109 people. Thirty-four of them have been identified, he said.
Groups of distraught relatives and loved ones of those feared dead trickled into a local morgue for recognition. Others — some weeping or smoking nervously — stared blankly
at the lists of the dead.

The Kremlin said Medvedev had declared December 7 a day of mourning in Russia, with flags to be at half-mast across the nation and media asked to abstain from entertainment shows. Three days of mourning will be observed in Perm.

A sombre Medvedev demanded severe punishment for the club owners. “First, it seems to me they have neither brains nor conscience and secondly, they are completely indifferent to what happened. I watched a report — they even took to their heels. They must be punished with the full force of the law,” he said, adding that the main club owner had been repeatedly warned by fire inspectors that his premises were unsafe.

Club owner held

Russian agencies quoted prosecutors as saying the club owner had been detained and was now being interrogated.

“This is not a premeditated murder, but this does not lessen the gravity of the crime. A huge number of people died,” prosecutors said.

 Health Minister Tatyana Golikova told Medvedev that of those 130 injured, 88 were in serious condition. Medvedev ordered those most seriously injured to be flown to Russia’s best medical centres.

A witness said dozens of charred bodies were piled on the pavement outside the club as medics moved the injured into ambulances. Blood-covered women in evening clothes lay on stretchers as scores of policemen swarmed around.

A stray firework sparked the fire, officials said. Wicker coverings on the walls of the club burst into flames, prompting panic. More than 200 people were in the club at the time.
The fire follows a bombing last Friday which killed 26 and injured more than 100 on a train travelling between Moscow and St Petersburg, for which Chechen Islamist militants claimed responsibility.

That blast stoked fears that Russia could face a nationwide bombing campaign, but Russian officials played down any links between the train attack and Friday’s nightclub disaster.

“There are no factors or signs pointing to a possible detonation of an explosive device,” Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev told Medvedev.

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