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Russian Psychiatric Institution Fire Kills At Least 38

Ministry for Emergency Situations workers and fire fighters work at a site of a fire of a psychiatric hospital, April 26, 2013.
At least 38 people are dead after a fire quickly spread through a one-story, wooden psychiatric facility north of Moscow. Russian investigators believe that the blaze may have been caused by a short circuit.

Russia’s emergency officials say the fire quickly swept through the building overnight Moscow time, engulfing the structure in flames.

Officials say many of the patients, ages 20-76, were heavily sedated due to severe mental issues. Those who were able to wake up tried to escape the flames through the windows, but many of them had bars on them. Russia’s Emergency Ministry says that some of the windows had bars due to safety rules, but it is not known why other windows were blocked.

Village of Ramensky, south of Moscow, Russia
Village of Ramensky, south of Moscow, Russia
Officials believe the blaze was caused by a short circuit and or lax safety standards.

When Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was president, he vowed stricter safety standards and improvements, saying it was vital for Russia’s modernization effort.

Masha Lipman is a political analyst with the Carnegie Center here in Moscow. She says the government always comes out after a big disaster to show its support but the safety situation in Russia remains dire. "There's all this talk about responsibility and improvements of technological standards, but it's the legacy of an unaccountable government," she said.

Russian officials continue to investigate the blaze and sift through debris.

Russia is no stranger to disasters. In 2011, more than 10 thousand people died in fires across the former Soviet Union. In the first nine months of 2012, more than 75,000 people died.