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Four jailed as club fire death toll hits 112

FOUR people were ordered to remain in jail yesterday pending an investigation into a nightclub fire that killed at least 112 people in Russia’s worst blaze in decades, investigators said.

About 130 people remained hospitalised, many in critical condition, with injuries from the early Saturday blaze which witnesses said was sparked by onstage fireworks that shot into the decorative twig ceiling of the Lame Horse club in the Ural Mountains industrial city of Perm. Shocked and grieving relatives yesterday began to bury the victims.

The federal Investigative Committee said the suspects – the club’s owner, the executive director, the artistic director and a businessman hired to install pyrotechnics on the night of the blaze – were ordered taken into custody yesterday by Leninsky District Court. They were suspected of negligence causing multiple deaths and violating fire safety rules causing multiple deaths.

Russian news agencies named the owner as Anatoly Zak. The pyrotechnics expert was named as Sergei Dergunov by his lawyer, Yekaterina Golysheva.

Mourning residents were indignant over the alleged negligence, which President Dmitry Medvedev criticised in a televised video conference on Saturday.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the club managers had been fined twice in the past for breaking fire safety regulations, which he did not specify. Russian clubs and restaurants often cover ceilings with plastic insulation and a layer of willow twigs to create a rustic look, one of many uses of combustible materials in buildings by businessmen who bribe officials to look the other way.

Nadezhda Zhizhina placed flowers on the icy ground outside the Perm City Morgue in memory of her 21-year-old son, Sergei.

She said she wasn’t expecting the compensation officials have promised to victims’ relatives because Sergei earned pocket money at the club as an unofficial administrator.

“I can’t even imagine what to do,” Zhizhina said, weeping. “He was a golden boy.”

Sergei’s wife, Yulia, is eight months pregnant.

The disaster has shaken this town of over one million, mobilising even those who didn’t lose relatives, such as Marina Dryonina. “This is nothing but criminal negligence. A terrible tragedy for our town.”

Many victims were trapped in a panicked crush for the exit as they attempted to escape the flames and thick black smoke.

Emergency Ministry spokeswoman Darya Kochneva said a man flown to a Moscow hospital had died of severe burns, bringing the toll to at least 112.

Enforcement of fire safety standards is infamously poor in Russia and there have been several catastrophic blazes at drug-treatment facilities, nursing homes, apartment buildings and nightclubs in recent years. The nation records up to 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per-capita rate in the United States and other Western countries.

Medvedev demanded that lawmakers draft changes to toughen criminal punishment for failing to comply with fire safety standards.

Today has been designated a national day of mourning, with entertainment events and television programmes cancelled.


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