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12 remain in serious condition after Vladivostok fire

VLADIVOSTOK, January 17 (RIA Novosti) - Twelve people remain in a serious condition after a fatal blaze gutted the sixth floor of an office center Monday in one of Russia's biggest cities on the Pacific, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Tuesday.

On Monday, a blaze broke at about 12:00 local time (02:00 GMT) on the sixth floor of a building in Vladivostok. Some of the victims died when they jumped out windows in an attempt to escape the flames. In addition to the fatalities, another 12 people were hospitalized with burns and injuries.

"Five people are in a burns treatment center, and six in the hospital, including three in intensive care, one in neurosurgery and two in the toxicology ward," the source said. "One woman is in a regional hospital."

Sergei Darkin, the governor of the Maritime Territory where the tragedy occurred, sent his condolences to the families of the victims, and called for measures to be taken to prevent such incidents in the future.

"I am sure the cause of the tragedy will be established," Darkin said.

Investigators suggested that one reason for the high death toll could have been that stairwells had been blocked, which meant people could not use evacuation routes. But they added that it was not the only reason.

"Firefighters could not start extinguishing the fire because a car park had been set up next to the building in breach of fire-safety regulations," local prosecutors said, adding that it took the firemen some time to clear the parking.

The president's envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, Kamil Iskhakov, urged a review of fire safety systems in the Maritime Region.

Head of the local emergencies department Viktor Kapkanshchikov told Iskhakov that firefighters had arrived at the site in less than three minutes after the fire broke out, and had managed to evacuate 146 people.

Iskhakov said also expressed his sympathies for the relatives of the victims, and promised to bring any guilty parties for the tragedy to justice.

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