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Fire kills 38 in Russian psychiatric hospital

MOSCOW — A fire raged through a wood-and-brick psychiatric hospital outside Moscow early Friday, killing 38 people, mostly patients who died in their beds as firefighters made the hourlong journey from the nearest station, safety officials said.

A nurse tried to extinguish the fire and evacuate patients, but it spread so quickly in the 73-year-old structure that she was able to lead only one patient to safety before the building was consumed, a Russian Emergency Situations Ministry official told the Interfax news agency. Of the 41 people in the building, three survived.

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Fires in Russian nursing homes and medical facilities have repeatedly resulted in dozens of deaths, in some cases because their patients were locked in.

However, investigators said the patients in Psychiatric Hospital No. 14, in the village of Ramensky, could have left the building if they had woken up. More than two-thirds of the patients regularly took powerful antipsychotic medications before going to bed, Veronika Skvortsova, Russia’s health minister, told reporters. Most died of burns or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Investigators said the fire started in a sofa, and they suspect it was caused by careless disposal of smoking material.

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