Four held in blaze at Russian nightclub
Negligence alleged as toll rises to 112
PERM, Russia - Grieving relatives begin to bury the victims of a nightclub fire that left at least 112 people dead, as four people were ordered held yesterday pending an investigation into the country’s worst blaze in decades.
About 130 people remained hospitalized with injuries from the blaze early Saturday, which witnesses said was sparked by onstage fireworks that shot into the decorative twig ceiling of the Lame Horse club in the 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 blaze - were ordered taken into custody yesterday by Leninsky District Court.
The committee’s website said they were suspected of negligence and violating fire safety rules.
Mourning residents of the Ural Mountain city of more than 1 million were indignant over the alleged negligence in a country where enforcement of fire safety standards is infamously poor and there have been several catastrophic blazes at drug-treatment facilities, nursing homes, apartment buildings, and nightclubs in recent years.
Nadezhda Zhizhina placed flowers on the icy ground outside the Perm City morgue in memory of her 21-year-old son, Sergei, who she said left behind a wife who was eight months’ pregnant.
She wasn’t expecting the compensation officials have promised to other victims’ relatives, because Sergei earned money at the club as an unofficial administrator.
The disaster outraged those who didn’t lose relatives. “This is nothing but criminal negligence,’’ Marina Dryonina said. “A terrible tragedy for our town.’’
Many victims were trapped in a panicked crush for the exit as they attempted to escape the flames and thick black smoke.
Russian news agencies identified the owner as Anatoly Zak. The pyrotechnics specialist was identified as Sergei Dergunov by his lawyer, Yekaterina Golysheva.
Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said the club managers had been fined twice for fire safety violations.
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 whose owners sometimes bribe officials to look the other way.
The nation records up to 18,000 fire deaths a year.