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Fire Blazes Through School for Deaf in Southern Russia, 28 Killed

An emergency aid plane has left Moscow for the southern Russian republic of Dagestan to help more than one-hundred people injured in a deadly blaze that gutted a special school for the deaf. At least 28 children were killed in the early morning fire, the second such blaze at a Russian school in a week.

An Ilyushin-76 aircraft took off from Moscow early Thursday for Makhachkala, carrying a team of Emergency Ministry experts, doctors from the Moscow city children's hospital and medical equipment and supplies.

Once in the capital of Dagestan, the team will fan out to investigate the cause of the blaze and provide aid to the injured. Most of the victims are suffering from burns and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has instructed the finance and education ministries to find additional ways to assist the victims and their families in the days ahead.

Earlier this week, the Russian government announced compensation payments to the survivors of 21 children and a teacher who died in another school blaze in the Siberian region of Yakutia on Monday.

Both blazes destroyed the traditional wooden school buildings.

The 138 survivors of Thursday's fire were evacuated to safety only to witness children jumping or being thrown from the two story building. Many of the children had to be physically awakened in order to be rescued because they could not hear the commotion.

Russian media quote eyewitnesses as saying school officials first tried to fight the fire on their own before calling in firemen, losing precious time in the process. High winds also hampered efforts to extinguish the blaze.

Dagestani officials have declared Friday an official day of mourning.

On any given day in Russia on average, 50 people are reportedly killed in fires. Most are sparked by general carelessness or people smoking while drinking. In addition, many Russian buildings have inadequate fireproofing and alarm systems.