A fire broke out overnight at a private illegal nursing home in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, killing 22 people, the Russian investigative committee said on Saturday.
In video released by the emergency services, a long line of emergency vehicles were lined up in front of the burning building as firefighters battled blazes that sent plumes of smoke into the night sky.
Images released by emergency services showed that the building later burned out completely.
Russia’s investigative committee, which investigates serious crimes, said it opened an inquiry into involuntary manslaughter.
“A fire broke out overnight at a private property used as a nursing home,” the investigative committee said on Telegram, adding that “the death toll has risen to 22.”
An earlier statement on Telegram had called it an “illegal” home, but a later version edited out the phrase.
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However, a police source quoted by the Russian state news agency TASS also described the house as illegal.
“Six others were injured, two of whom have been hospitalized and are in serious condition with burns,” the Telegram statement added.
An earlier statement from the emergency services reported that 20 people had died.
The fire spread over 180 square meters in a two-story wooden building, TASS reported.
– cooker defective –
The committee said a 31-year-old man was questioned who had “rented private property to people in (a) difficult situation”.
“On the eve of the incident, the tenants informed the defendant that the stove was defective, but he did nothing to fix the equipment,” the investigative committee said.
“On-site inspections are ongoing,” the committee said, adding that “witnesses are being questioned.”
The committee released a video of a detainee with his face blurred.
The emergency services said the premise was identified in 2021 and an inspection was planned.
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“On December 7, the inspector from the State Fire Control Service came to the facility to inspect. The management of the shelter refused him access to the premises,” said the emergency services via telegram.
Regional governor Sergei Tsivilev instructed local authorities to “identify legal entities, entrepreneurs and citizens who provide social services to the elderly and disabled”.
“When violations are identified, take comprehensive action to eliminate them,” he said in a statement on Telegram.
Earlier, Tsivilev said his government would “inspect all institutions of this type, and especially private ones… within a week.”
Fire safety regulations are often violated in Russia due to corruption, as building permits are issued by officials in exchange for bribes.
In 2018, at least 64 people, including 41 children, died in a fire at a shopping center in Kemerovo.
After this disaster, four safety deficiencies were registered at hundreds of commercial and cultural sites across Russia.