Four held over Russia club fire

 

Four people have been arrested in connection with a fire that killed at least 112 people in a Russian nightclub on Friday night.

About 130 people remain in hospital, many in critical condition, with injuries from the fire, which witnesses said was sparked by on-stage fireworks that shot into the ceiling of the Lame Horse club in the Ural Mountains industrial city of Perm.

The federal Investigative Committee said the suspects - the club’s owner, the executive director, the artistic director and a businessman hired to install pyrotechnics on the night of the fire - were ordered taken into custody today by Leninsky District Court.

The committee’s website said they were suspected of negligence causing multiple deaths and violating fire safety rules causing multiple deaths.

Shocked and grieving relatives today began to bury the victims of the disaster. Many were indignant over the alleged negligence, which President Dmitry Medvedev also criticised in a nationally televised videoconference yesterday.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said the club managers had been fined twice in the past for breaking fire safety regulations, which he did not specify.

Russian clubs and restaurants often cover ceilings with plastic insulation and a layer of willow twigs to create a rustic look, one of many uses of combustible materials in buildings by businessmen who bribe officials to look the other way.

Many victims were trapped in a panicked crush for the exit as they attempted to escape the flames and thick black smoke.

Enforcement of fire safety standards is infamously poor in Russia and there have been several catastrophic fires at drug-treatment facilities, nursing homes, apartment buildings and nightclubs in recent years. The country records up to 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per-capita rate in the United States and other Western countries.

Mr Medvedev demanded that parliament draft changes to toughen the criminal punishment for failing to comply with fire safety standards.

Tomorrow has been designated a national day of mourning.

AP