MOSCOW – Ten people were killed early Sunday in a blaze at a Moscow striptease club that officials said may have been caused by an accident during a "fire show." It was the latest in a series of deadly disasters over the past two weeks that drew attention to lax observance of safety regulations in Russia.
Some witnesses said the fire broke out about 3 a.m. during a "fire show" that was part of the 911 club's nightly entertainment, said Yevgeny Bobylev, a spokesman for the Moscow division of the Emergency Service Ministry. The preliminary accounts indicated that a performer in the show inadvertently set his clothing on fire and that in turn ignited a nearby 5-liter (1.2-gallon) container of flammable liquid, Bobylev said.
He said all the deaths were due to suffocation. About 150 people were evacuated, including four who were hospitalized.
The blaze is the latest in a series of disasters in Russia that began March 17 when a commercial airliner smashed into the ground short of the Samara airport's runway, killing six. Two days later, a methane gas explosion tore through a Siberian coal mine, killing 108 people; the next day, a fire at a nursing home in southern Russia killed 63 people.
The RIA-Novosti news agency cited the general prosecutor's office as saying two of the dead in the club fire were Bulgarian citizens. Calls to the prosecutor's office for confirmation were not answered.
The club was located on the premises of the Lenkom theater, a well-known stage in downtown Moscow not far from Pushkin Square.
The city prosecutor's office has opened a criminal investigation on suspicion of fire safety violations, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
The club blaze underlined Russia's severe problem with fire deaths. Some 17,000 people died in fires last year, according to the emergency ministry — a rate several times higher than seen in Western countries. Officials say poor enforcement of fire regulations and improper construction contribute to the high rate.
The nursing home where the fatal fire broke out last week was in a town where the local fire department had been disbanded; fire crews took about an hour to get to the scene. A new alarm system had not been fully installed at the nursing home and some reports said a watchman ignored initial alarms from the system, calling for help only when he saw flames.
In December, 45 women died in a fire at a Moscow drug treatment facility where windows were barred; a fire at a Siberian mental hospital the next day killed nine patients.