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

Rapper affiliate of Wu-Tang Clan 'cuts off own…

Rapper Andre Johnson, who has performed with New York outfit the Wu-Tang Clan, is in a critical condition after reportedly cutting off his own penis…

National

Cleavage complaint: Disneyland staffer orders curvy mom to…

A curvy mom-of-three says she filed a formal complaint after staff at Disneyland Resort in California ordered her to cover up her boobs. Melissa Behnken,…

Local

Supporters say man accused of robbery was misidentified

A Liberian immigrant couple charged with extorting money from an elderly woman in March will be in court Thursday for a bail hearing, but supporters say it's a case of…

International

Canadian charged in 'Heartbleed' attack on tax agency

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian police have arrested a 19-year-old man and charged him in connection with exploiting the "Heartbleed" bug to steal taxpayer data from…

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 8

Sure, it's called Survivor. But this season should really be called 'The Tony Show.'

Television

Jim Rash talks 'The Writer's Room' and amazing…

For Jim Rash, as the fifth season of "Community" comes to a close, the second season of "The Writer's Room" begins.

Television

'Dexter' star Jennifer Carpenter moves into producing role

The actress who played the title character's sister in "Dexter" is teaming up with producer George Stelzner to adapt Erika Hayasaki's book "The Death Class:…

The Word

Wahlburgers announce North America domination

Tuesday was a huge day for Donnie Wahlberg.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

NHL

Flyers, Rangers meet in playoffs for 11th time

The Flyers and Rangers will start a new chapter in a historic rivalry.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's are baseball's best, Brewers…

MLB Power Rankings: A's are baseball's best, Brewers and Braves right behind

NHL

Top 5 Philadelphia storylines for Flyers-Rangers

The slate is clean for the Flyers and the Rangers. Which is good news for the Flyers.

Wellbeing

This Week in Health: chocolate may prevent obesity…

Can chocolate prevent obesity and diabetes? Location of study: U.S. Study subjects: Mice Results: The positive health benefits of chocolate have been studied increasingly more…

Wellbeing

This Week in Health News: breastfed infants trying…

Are breastfed infants trying to prevent mom from having another baby? Theory: The act of breastfeeding not only brings mom and baby closer together –…

Wellbeing

Unexplained infertility may be caused by lack of…

Researchers have identified a protein on the egg's surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of sperm, allowing the two cells to join.

Tech

5 surprising facts about Google Glass

Your sex life could get more interesting.