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Death Toll Climbing in Russian Nightclub Fire

Updated 5:00 pm and new video added.  Scroll down.

AN EXPLOSIVELY-MOVING FIRE IN A PERM, RUSSIA, NIGHTCLUB has killed at least 109 party goers and approx. 90 – 130 more are in hospitals, many in critical condition.

The fire occurred on Friday night in the city of 1 million, 700 miles east of Moscow, when a private party in the Lame Horse nightclub was enjoying a floor show.  In a scene eerily reminiscent of several recent similar disasters, a pyrotchnic display on the stage that was part of the musical act set the ceiling on fire.

The Associated Press reports:  Svetlana Kuvshinova, who was in the nightclub when the blaze broke out, told the AP it started after three fireworks fountains spewed sparks, igniting the plastic ceiling.  “The fire took seconds to spread,” she said. “It was like a dry haystack. There was only one way out. They nearly stampeded me.”

Another clubgoer said panic spread quickly through the crowd.  “There was only one exit, and people starting breaking down the doors to get out,” said a woman who identified herself only as Olga, smeared with soot and wearing a filthy fur coat. “They were breaking the door and panic set in. Everything was in smoke. I couldn’t see anything.”

The first-in fire engine arrived within moments after dispatch and the fire was extinguished in less than an hour.  But the carnage had already taken place as the guests were trampled on their way to the only exit.  Most of the deaths were from the smoke inhalation that they were forced to endure.  About 130 victims were flown to hospitals in Moscow for advanced treatment.  The death count is expected to continue to rise.

This home-video was recorded inside the club when the fire started.  It begins with the M.C. trying to keep the people calm as he says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, guests of the club, we are on fire. Please leave the hall!”  You will see the people trying to maintain order as they start to evacuate, but panic sets in when the fire suddenly engulfs the entire ceiling which was composed of twigs and straw designed to lend to the “horse barn” theme of the club:

RIA Novosti reports:

The owner and manager of the club, Anatoly Zak and Svetlana Yefremova, have been arrested, and face jail terms of up to seven years. Four other suspects are wanted in the case.

President Medvedev accused those running the club of gross negligence, and called for harsh punishments.  “They have no brains and no conscience. They showed complete indifference to what was going on… They must face full punishment,” he said.  The president said the sentences the culprits face under current laws are far too mild.

“We must think about the laws on such events. They should be much stricter, and failure to abide by them, including breaches of fire safety regulations, should be much more severely punished.”

The venue, which covers an area of 500 square meters, was almost completely destroyed by the blaze.  The club is known to have held several indoor fireworks displays in the past, shown in the image gallery on the Lame Horse website

The party was held to celebrate the nightclub’s 8th anniversary and many of the attendees were employees and their family members.

Russia Today filed this video report earlier.  It begins with what appears to be a dance contest being held on the stage.  At the :50 mark you will pick up the afore-viewed part showing the panicky exiting.  The report continues on further showing the carnage on the outside as the bodies are stacked up and removed:

perm c RIA Novosti

Triage appears to be a neglected skill in the Perm F & R
(RIA Novosti photo)

Russia Today posted this more comprehensive report this morning with some updates:

Update, 5 pm:
Five club executives have been arrested in connection with the deadly fire and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused them of gross negligence, saying,  “They have no brains and no conscience. They showed complete indifference to what was going on… They must face full punishment.” 

The club’s two co-founders as well as the bar’s manager, art director, and the individual who set the fireworks, have been detained and questioned, while a sixth suspect, the leaseholder, is in the hospital in critical condition.

RIA Novasti is further reporting:

A criminal case has been opened for violations of fire regulations that resulted in multiple deaths, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

The Lame Horse had twice been fined for violating fire safety regulations, but to no effect, while local residents said a fire a year ago had been extinguished before it got out of control.  The 500-square-meter venue, which was almost completely destroyed, had a suspended ceiling, allowing the flames to spread rapidly.

Russia’s regional prosecutors have been told to organize urgent nationwide inspections of public gathering venues, to avoid a repeat of the tragedy in Perm as the New Year holidays draw near.

The General Prosecutor’s Office said on its website: “A telegram has been sent to all Russian regions, ordering prosecutors to immediately organize, in cooperation with the local departments of the Russian emergencies ministry and other supervisory bodies, a range of measures to ensure the safety of citizens at mass gathering venues.”

The checks will focus on fire safety, including the storage and use of fireworks and the presence of adequate fire exits, and must be completed by December 15. Those found in breach of fire safety laws may face criminal charges, the statement said.

Russia Today has a good video update that addresses these topics:


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