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Moscow University Fire Kills 36 - 2003-11-24

A fire at a university dormitory in Moscow has killed at least 36 people and injured more than 100 in what officials say was Russia's deadliest blaze in a decade. Almost all the victims were foreign students.

Investigators are sifting through the charred rubble of the five-story dormitory. The fire broke out when most of the students were asleep.

Apart from those killed, at least 139 people have been hospitalized for smoke inhalation, or injuries sustained when they jumped out of windows to escape the inferno.

Firefighters were hampered by a snowstorm as they fought the blaze, which was not extinguished until dawn.

Russia's deputy interior minister says it does not appear that the fire was deliberately set, but may have been caused by a faulty electrical appliance in a building that surviving students say was overcrowded.

Fires have become increasingly common in Russia during the past decade, due to a lack of funds for proper maintenance and safety equipment in older buildings, such as the dormitory.

Most of the victims were students from Asia and Africa at the People's Friendship University, which was established in Soviet times to provide subsidized education to foreigners from developing countries. Many of the students who attend the university today do so at the expense of their home governments.