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Russian Nightclub Fire Kills Over 100; Two Arrested

The club caught fire when its plastic ceiling was ignited by so-called 'cold fireworks,' which usually have lower temperatures than conventional fireworks.

More than 100 people are dead and more than 130 injured after a fire tore through a Russian nightclub, east of Moscow, early Saturday morning. Officials are blaming the blaze on a pyrotechnics display.

At least 200 people were in the Lame Horse nightclub, in the city of Perm, some 1,200 kilometers east of Moscow, when the blaze began. Russian officials say the single-story building had a suspended plastic ceiling that caught fire quickly when it was ignited by so-called "cold fireworks." These are generally fountain-type displays with lower temperatures than conventional fireworks.

Igor Orlov, regional minister of public security, says that according to preliminary information from Federal Security Service bomb-disposal experts, there was no explosion, just a fire. There were floodlights inside. And the so-called "cold" fireworks were used. The stage where the artists performed was equipped with an additional ceiling made of flammable material"

Initially, many feared the incident could be the work of terrorists after last week's deadly bombing of an overnight express train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Islamist militants claimed responsibility for that blast.

One young man, who refused to be identified, was interviewed standing outside the charred club. He says around 50 of his friends were inside, when the blaze started, and people knew that fireworks were not supposed to be used at the venue.

He says it all started with fireworks and that people were told, before and during the rehearsal that fireworks should not be used because everything in the club is made of wood. People say that the fire started from the ceiling and that people did not notice it immediately and then there was the smoke.

Many of the victims were young people who died of burns or gas inhalation. Officials say there was also a mass attempt to exit the club when the blaze began, and some patrons may have been trampled to death.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has been notoriously lax in enforcing fire safety standards. The country has seen several deadly blazes at nursing homes, apartment buildings and drug treatment facilities in the several years.

Russia records nearly 18,000 fire deaths per year. That is a significantly higher rate than in the United States and other Western countries.

In March 2007, 10 people died in Moscow when an entertainer's clothing ignited during a so-called "fire show." In February 2008, four people were killed at the Golden Rock nightclub in the Siberian city of Omsk. Officials blame a natural gas explosion for those deaths.