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17 Migrant Workers Die in Moscow Warehouse Fire

Trapped in Inhumane Living Quarters

AT LEAST 17 MIGRANT WORKERS living in a Moscow, Russia, market warehouse perished Tuesday morning after being trapped in their bunks while a fire swept through the insulated metal shed where they were sleeping.

The workers are believed to be immigrants from Tajikistan.  The UK Telegraph reports:

Numerous Moscow markets employ cheap labourers from the region without giving them proper housing conditions or pay.  The blaze erupted early on Tuesday at a market on the southern outskirts of the (suburb of) Kachalovsky. Officials said it took two hours to put out.

Emergency workers described squalid living conditions in which the workers slept on hard cots that were stacked on top of each other in rows of four without any direct access to the outside.

AP / Dmitriyev

The workers "lived in a metal annex that was equipped with a space heater", a police official told the Interfax news agency. "They slept in frighteningly tight conditions, on hard bunk cots that were then stacked on top of each other," he said.

The fire began around 5 am and burned for two hours before it was put out.  The roof had collapsed before it was extinguished.

It is initially believed that the fire is directly related to space heaters which were being used to warm the shed as the temperatures are still sub-freezing in Russia.

AFP has a brief video report from the scene:

 

The police have opened a criminal investigation.  Reuters adds:

"The space was not meant for people to live in," emergency official Sergei Gorbunov told state-run news agency RIA.

The metal-sided two-storey building was used as a storage warehouse at a construction materials market, said Gorbunov, deputy chief of the Emergency Situations department in Moscow’s southwestern district. The victims had been living in makeshift quarters in the rear of the building, he said.

"Why people were living there and what relationship they had with the market will be established by the investigation," he added.

It is still possible that more victims might be found in the rubble.

RIA Novosti has MORE HERE.

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