An explosion and fire apparently caused by pyrotechnics tore through a nightclub in the Russian city of Perm early today, killing 101 people, according to news reports.
Regional security minister Igor Orlov said the club had a suspended plastic ceiling that caught fire quickly when ignited by so-called “cold fireworks”, which generally are fountain-type displays with lower temperatures than conventional fireworks, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.
“The majority of the deaths were the result of burns or gas inhalation,” state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for Russia’s top investigate body, as saying: “Along with this, there was a crush at the exit.”
State television showed charred bodies lying in rows outside the club amid a light snowfall.
Mr Markin said most of the victims were young people, and that there was no suspicion of a terrorist attack.
Russia has been on edge since last week’s bombing of the prestigious Nevsky Express passenger train midway between Moscow and St Petersburg, which killed 27 people.
It was the first fatal terrorist attack outside Russia’s restive Caucasus republics since 2004.
Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for the bombing.
State television news channel Vesti cited the regional branch of Emergencies as saying the toll was 101 dead and 160 injured. Other reports put the number of dead in the high 90s.
Perm, a city of around one million people, is about 700 miles east of Moscow in the Ural Mountains.
Enforcement of fire safety standards in Russia is notoriously lax and in recent years there have been several catastrophic blazes at drug-treatment facilities and apartment buildings.
Russia records nearly 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per capita rate in the United States and other Western countries. Nightclub fires have killed thousands of people worldwide.
Ten people died when a so-called “fire show” went out of control at a Moscow club in March 2007.
In February 2008, a fire in the Golden Rock nightclub in the Siberian city of Omsk killed four people.
Officials said the blast might have been caused by natural gas.