Fire kills dozens in Russian psychiatric hospital

Russian emergency service staff work at the site of a fire at a psychiatric hospital in the village of Ramensky, north of Moscow April 26, 2013. Credit: Reuters
Russian emergency service staff work at the site of a fire at a psychiatric hospital in the village of Ramensky, north of Moscow April 26, 2013. Credit: Reuters

Thirty-eight people were killed, most of them in their beds, in a fire that raged through a psychiatric hospital near Moscow on Friday, raising questions about the care of mentally ill patients in Russia.

The fire, which broke out at around 2 a.m. (2200 GMT on Thursday), swept through a single-storey building at the hospital, a collection of wood and brick huts with bars on some windows that was home to people sectioned by Russian courts.

By mid morning, a few blackened walls were left standing. The roof had caved in on top of the twisted metal of what were once beds. Bodies lay on nearby grass, covered with blankets.

Only three people escaped from the fire in the village of Ramensky, 120 km (70 miles) north of Moscow, prompting speculation the patients were heavily sedated or strapped down.

Irina Gumennaya, aide to the head of the chief investigative department of the Moscow region, dismissed suggestions they had been restrained as “rubbish” but promised blood tests to check whether there were high levels of sedatives.

“The wards … did not have doors, the sick could have escaped from the building by themselves,” she said, adding that she believed the most likely cause of the blaze was patients smoking, or perhaps a short circuit.

President Vladimir Putin called for an investigation of the “tragedy”, the latest in a long line of disasters at state institutions that are often ill-funded. Russia’s safety record is dismal, accounting for a high death toll on roads, railways and in the air as well as at the workplace.

Psychiatrists said the fire was not the first and would not be the last of its kind.

“(This happened) because of dilapidated buildings in psychiatric hospitals – a third of the buildings since 2000 have been declared unfit, according to health standards,” Yuri Savenko, president of the independent psychiatric association of Russia, said in a telephone interview.

Furthermore, junior and middle-ranking staff had miserable salaries and “because of that the staff were asleep”, he said.

RUSSIA – “THE MADHOUSE”

Putin’s critics blamed the state for neglecting its most vulnerable people.

“Terrible news .. Those patients who burned were there because they were forced to have treatment,” said Dmitry Olshansky, former editor of “Russian Life”, an online journal.

“I read all this and I wonder – what does this remind us of? And then I remember – this is our motherland, the madhouse. Flood, fire, bars on windows … and we cannot deal with it,” he said on his Facebook site.

Officials said the blaze consumed the building quickly and firefighters had no chance to save any more people – an account that locals disputed, saying fire engines took more than an hour to reach the scene.

“Don’t trust anyone who says they (firemen) arrived quickly … My wife woke me up, we went out on the street with our daughter. Flames were rising high,” said a man, who was drinking an early-morning beer at a friend’s garage nearby.

Asked why it caught fire, Alexander Yefimovich, an elderly man said: “Why? It’s just the usual nonsense.”

More than 12,000 people were killed in fires in 2011 and more than 7,700 in the first nine months of 2012 in Russia, where the per capita death rate from fires is much higher than in Western nations including the United States.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.