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Fire Kills 30 in Belarus Mental Hospital

In Belarus, 30 psychiatric patients are dead and one person is reported missing after fire swept through a government-run mental home outside Minsk. Officials suspect one of the patients started the blaze.

Belarussian emergency situations minister Valery Astapov said first reports appear to indicate that one of the mental patients started the blaze in the asylum in Belarus Grodno region.

Mr. Astapov said there have been at least two other arson attempts at the institution, located about 250 kilometers west of the capital, Minsk.

One of the 62 patients who lived at the hospital is reported missing. Emergency officials said they did not know whether he ran away or died in the pre-dawn blaze.

Firefighters called to the scene managed to rescue at least 30 patients. But the minister acknowledged that the degree of the patients disorders significantly complicated the rescue operation.

Two patients disoriented by tranquilizers reportedly went back inside the burning building to their deaths.

The rescue operation was further hampered by the fact that hospital staff first tried to fight the blaze themselves, before calling for help.

By that time, the buildings roof and ceilings had caved in as the fire completely consumed the wooden structure.

Mr. Astapov said it is the worst fire Belarus has experienced in 50 years.