Reports: Russian nightclub blast kills 102

AP News
Posted: Dec 05, 2009 2:35 AM

An explosion and fire blamed on fireworks tore through a nightclub in the Russian city of Perm early Saturday, killing 102 people, Russian officials said.

Video from inside the Lame Horse club, broadcast on the state-run Vesti news channel, showed the ceiling starting to burn and the club filling with smoke as young, stylishly dressed patrons gradually realize what is happening and mob an exit.

News footage shot later outside the nightclub showed charred bodies lying in rows on the ground amid a light snowfall. Rescue workers carried bodies on stretchers into waiting vans.

Vesti reported that the blaze started when a performer juggling fireworks accidentally set the plastic suspended ceiling on fire.

The federal Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement on its Web site that 102 people were killed and 134 injured. Perm region security officials said 80 of the injured were in critical condition.

Ministry spokesman Oleg Popov told the media the victims died from smoke inhalation and injuries sustained in the crush at the club's exit.

Firefighters were on the scene one minute after the alarm was called in, the ministry said, and they took less than an hour to put the fire out.

The Interfax news agency said an owner of the Lame Horse had been detained by police following the deadly blaze.

Identification of the bodies was scheduled to begin Saturday morning, RIA Novosti said.

Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for Russia's top investigative body, said that there was no suspicion of a terrorist attack. RIA Novosti said the local branch of Russia's Federal Security Service had sifted through the site but found no evidence of a bomb.

Russia has been on edge since last week's bombing of the high-speed Nevsky Express passenger train midway between Moscow and St. Petersburg, which killed 27. It was the first fatal terrorist attack outside Russia's restive Caucasus republics since 2004.

Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for the blast.

Perm, a city of around 1 million people, is about 700 miles (1,200 kilometers) east of Moscow in the Ural Mountains.

Enforcement of fire safety standards is notoriously lax in Russia and there have been several catastrophic blazes at drug-treatment facilities, nursing homes and apartment buildings in recent years.

Russia records nearly 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per-capita rate in the United States and other Western countries. Nightclub fires have killed thousands of people worldwide.

Ten people died when an entertainer's clothing was ignited during a so-called "fire show" at a Moscow club in March 2007.

In February 2008, a fire in the Golden Rock nightclub in the Siberian city of Omsk killed four people. Officials said the blast might have been caused by natural gas.

A nightclub fire in the U.S. state of Rhode Island in 2003 killed 100 people after pyrotechnics used as a stage prop by the 1980s rock band Great White set ablaze cheap soundproofing foam on the walls and ceiling.


Associated Press Writer Douglas Birch contributed to this report.