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Restaurant blaze sparked by fireworks kills at least 100, scores wounded

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-06

At least 100 people were killed and scores were wounded when fireworks sparked a fire during a restaurant celebration in the Russian city of Perm. Police sources say that most of the victims succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

AFP - Over 100 people were killed and dozens injured when a blaze triggered by indoor fireworks swept through a Russian nightclub, as officials ruled out a terrorist attack Saturday.

Flames ripped through the Lame Horse nightclub in the Ural city of Perm as around 230 people celebrated the venue's eighth anniversary, local police said, quoted by Russian news agencies.

Russian television showed bodies being piled up outside the club by rescue workers. The windows of the one-story venue were shattered and charred.

Local residents told AFP the fire could have spread quickly because a barn theme meant the club was decorated with highly flammable straw pannels.

"The death toll from the tragedy in Perm has grown to 103 people," a regional emergency situations ministry spokesman said after another burns victim died in hospital, Russian news agencies reported.

A further 133 people were injured in the blaze overnight from Friday to Saturday, he said. A local resident said hospitals had put out an urgent call for blood donors in the wake of the tragedy.

Many of those killed died of smoke inhalation as party-goers rushed to escape, a police source said.

A local resident, who gave her name only as Nelly, said staff and performers, including a friend's daughter, had for the most part escaped through a back door.

"The lights went out and she crawled out through a back exit. Her clothes were all charred from the fire and black," she said.

"There were fireworks set off at the scene, and one hit the plastic ceiling, setting everything ablaze. People panicked and succumbed to burns, the crush and gas poisoning," the Perm region's public security minister Igor Orlov was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying at the scene of the blaze.

Officials ruled out the possibility that the tragedy was due to a terrorist attack as FSB security service experts found no trace of explosives or other evidence at the scene.

"The accident was due to a violation of instructions when launching fireworks," investigative committee's spokesman Vladimir Markin told Vesti-24 television.

"There is no chance it was a terrorist act, I can say that 100 percent," Markin added.

The tragedy came a week after a train blast on a busy railway from Moscow to Saint Petersburg killed 26 people and renewed fears of terror attacks in Russia's heartland.

But so-called "cold fireworks", which give off less heat and so can be used indoors, were apparently the conflagration's cause, though they require careful planning, investigators said.

A grainy video from inside the club broadcast on Vesti showed the ceiling starting to blaze. Smoke wisped through the crowd of young party-goers with drinks, who slowly realise what is happening and rush toward an exit.

A government commission was set up to look into the tragedy, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said as quoted by RIA Novosti.

Enforcement of fire safety regulations is known to be lax in Russia, where thousands of blazes are recorded every year and the death rate from fires is several times higher than in the West.

Perm is a city of around 1 million people and lies about 1,200 kilometres (700 miles) east of Moscow in Russia's Ural mountains.

Date created : 2009-12-05