Orphanage fire in Estonia kills 10 disabled children
TALLINN, Estonia — A fire raced through an orphanage for disabled children in western Estonia yesterday, killing 10 of them, a rescue service spokesman said.
There were 37 children and nine adults inside the wooden building when the fire started at 2:30 p.m. in the coastal town of Haapsalu, said Viktor Saaremets, a spokesman for the Western Estonia Rescue Services Center.
“By the time rescue workers and firefighters arrived at the scene three or four minutes later, the building was completely in flames,’’ he said.
Ten children were killed and one adult was injured, Saaremets said. The others were evacuated to a nearby building, he said.
The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.
Estonian newspaper Postimees showed pictures on its website of flames tearing into a one-story building. Victims were carried out a window, as thick smoke billowed from the roof.
The Estonian government met for an emergency meeting after the blaze and declared today a nationwide day of mourning.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves expressed his condolences. “The tragic accident in the Haapsalu orphanage shocked the whole of Estonia today,’’ Ilves said in a statement.
Lars Nexe, a Swedish philanthropist who led the orphanage’s relocation project in 1996, said the home admits disabled children and teenagers from all over Estonia, nearly all of them orphans.
“The section that burned down completely was the section with the most severely handicapped children,’’ he said.