MOSCOW, December 9 (RIA Novosti) - An overnight fire in a drug treatment hospital in southern Moscow killed more than 40 people and injured at least a dozen, a senior Russian emergencies official said Saturday.
Alexander Chupriyan, a deputy emergency situations minister, said the patients and staff found themselves trapped in the clinic's five-story building as the fire broke out in the early hours of the morning, with all but one escape routes blocked with metal grilles.
"They could not leave the premises without outside help, as only one emergency exit was open," he said.
Forty-five people, including 43 patients and two members of the staff, died as a result of inhaling fumes before a fire brigade arrived at the scene. The 200-plus survivors were evacuated safely, and ten of them hospitalized. Two are reported to be in a critical condition.
The Prosecutor General's Office has opened a criminal case on presumed fire safety violations and arson, but no suspects have been questioned or detained so far.
The fire reportedly erupted in a cafeteria on the second floor and spread over an area of some 25 square meters, but caused no major damage to the building.
Officials and surviving patients have attributed the heavy death toll to the hospital being a high-security institution, providing treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction. The building has metal grilles on all the windows and staircases, and the ward doors are always locked for the night.