Deadly fire devastates retirement home

Eleven elderly people died after a fire broke out in their retirement home in Egg, western Austria. The cause of the fire is being investigated but police say deaths were almost certainly due to smoke inhalation.


VIENNA, Feb 8 (Reuters) - A fire swept through a retirement
home in the western Austrian town of Egg on Friday, killing 11
residents, officials said.

Television pictures showed the second and third storeys of
the retirement home engulfed in flames and heavy smoke billowing
round the building.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately known, but
officials said the deaths occurred from smoke inhalation.

About 250 firefighters battled for some three hours to put
out the blaze and 75 Red Cross workers were helping at the
scene, the officials said.

One official said 23 residents and two carers were in the
building when the fire started.

"This is a catastrophe. It is awful," Austrian Chancellor
Alfred Gusenbauer told reporters in Egg, a town with a
population of about 3,500.

Firefighters were now investigating the cause of the blaze,
said a spokesman for the regional government of Vorarlberg.

"According to information from fire services, the fire
started in a room on the first floor at the back of the
building," said the spokesman.

Markus Natter, head of the firefighters in Egg, told the
Austrian broadcaster ORF: "The biggest problem was the smoke.
People could simply not get out through the stairwell."

The death toll was the biggest in a blaze in Austria since
155 people were killed when a funicular train in Kaprun caught
fire in a tunnel in November 2000.


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