Fire Guts Psych Hospital in Russia, Killing 37

Authorities had warned about dangerous building
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2013 4:04 AM CDT
12 Dead, 20 Missing in Russia Hospital Fire
Emergency workers are seen at a psychiatric hospital in Luka village in the Novgorod region, Russia, early Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.   (AP Photo/Russian Emergency Ministry, the Novgorod region branch)

A fire at a psychiatric hospital in central Russia has killed 37 people, according to the country's top investigators. Though 60 were inside the now-decimated facility when the blaze began, 23 were evacuated, officials say. Among the dead was a nurse trying to rescue patients, the New York Times reports. Thus far, officials say just 22 bodies have been found, RT adds. The cause of the fire—now extinguished, CNN reports—is the subject of a criminal investigation; it's not the first blaze at a Russian psychiatric facility this year, RIA Novosti notes.

The Oksochi psychoneurological institution, one of many such facilities in Russia, housed elderly people needing care as well as people with mental illnesses. The 19th-century building, made mostly from wood, has long prompted official warnings, the AP notes. The fire reportedly began in the men's ward of the building; a witness told local television that a man had been smoking in bed. "Medical personnel saw a patient who was shrouded in flames ... It's possible that he was smoking in bed and the mattress caught fire," a regional governor said, via Interfax and NBC News. Prosecutors say the man, who was rescued, may have intended to start the fire. (More Russia stories.)

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