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At least 23 perish in nursing home blaze

A NURSING home fire in northwestern Russia has killed at least 23 people. Officials said local authorities were slow to report the blaze.

The fire on Saturday in the town of Podyelsk in the Komi region followed similar recent deadly fires at other nursing homes across the country.

Konstantin Bobrov, a spokesman for the regional government in the Komi province, said that the fire swept quickly through the wooden building in the town located about 1,200 kilometers northeast of Moscow.

He said three residents of the home were rescued and 23 died in the fire. Bobrov said that the town had a fire station, but it could not cope with the size of the fire and more firefighters had to be called from a nearby town.

Grigory Gorbunov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry's branch for northwestern Russia, said on Vesti 24 television that local authorities had been slow to report the fire. He said firefighters found the building engulfed in flames when they arrived.

The Interfax news agency quoted emergency officials in Komi as saying that up to 25 people might have died.

Officials would not comment on the cause of the fire. Russia's Investigative Committee has launched a probe.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the government to conduct a thorough investigation and quickly report to him on the cause of the fire.

Russia records nearly 18,000 fire deaths each year, several times the per capita rate in the United States and other Western countries.

In November 2007, a fire caused by a short circuit killed 32 patients in a nursing home in the Tula region south of Moscow.

Emergency officials said that building was not equipped with a fire alarm.


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