The A Just Russia opposition party called for Emergency Situation Minister Sergei Shoigu's resignation on Wednesday as the death toll from a fire in a Perm night club continued to grow.
The death of a 25-year-old woman brought the death toll in the December 5 blaze to 149. Another 80 people remain in hospital, with 20 in a grave condition.
Party spokesman Konstantin Beschetnov alleged that the emergencies ministry had failed to carry out a thorough fire safety inspection of the Lame Horse night club where the blaze took place, noting that the heaviest ever fine the club had been forced to pay was 1,500 roubles (some $50).
The fire began after an indoor firework display went wrong, causing the wicker-decorated ceiling to catch alight.
"These facts indicate the absolute inefficiency of Russian Emergency Situation Ministry's work," Beschetnov said.
The party also called for State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov to take personal control of a probe into the work of the emergencies ministry, which, Beschetnov said, "created a system that people died in."
Shoigu said in a recent newspaper interview that inspectors had for years turned a blind eye to breaches of fire safety in the nightclub. He said a probe had revealed numerous safety violations in the club, including those committed during reconstruction work that took place several years ago.
Following a 2001 reorganization, the Russian State Fire Service was transferred from the Interior Ministry's jurisdiction and placed under the control of the Emergency Situations Ministry.
The death toll from the tragedy has risen steadily throughout the week. Doctors say victims suffered extensive burns and severe respiratory injuries.
Russia has an appalling fire-safety record. According to the country's emergency services, 15,165 people died in fires across the country in 2008, including 584 children. In the United States, with more than twice the population, the figure is around 3,400 deaths a year.
PERM, December 16 (RIA Novosti)