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30 dead in Belarus Hospital Fire

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  • 30 dead in Belarus Hospital Fire

    MINSK, Belarus (AP) - A fire believed to have been set by a
    psychiatric patient engulfed a Belarusian mental hospital Sunday,
    killing 30 patients and reducing much of the century-old wooden
    building to ash.
    One of the 62 patients who lived at the hospital in the village
    of Randilovshchina, some 150 miles west of the capital, Minsk, was
    missing. Emergency officials said they did not know whether he ran
    away or died in the pre-dawn blaze.
    Another 31 patients had minor injuries, officials said. No
    hospital staff were in the building when the fire started.
    A spokeswoman for President Alexander Lukashenko, Natalya
    Petkevich, said the fire was set by a patient who had tried to burn
    down the building twice before. The patient was among those killed.
    But Igor Zarembo, a duty officer at the Emergency Situations
    Ministry, said investigators were also considering a second
    possibility - that the fire resulted from carelessness on the part
    of the staff.
    A nurse and an orderly were sleeping in a separate building on
    hospital grounds when the fire broke out, Zarembo said. When they
    awoke to screams and the smell of smoke, they apparently panicked
    and tried to put out the fire and rescue patients themselves,
    instead of immediately calling for help.
    "As a result of such poorly thought-out actions, by the time
    emergency personnel arrived, one of the hospital's wings was
    completely engulfed in flames and the roof and ceiling had
    collapsed," Emergency Situations Minister Valery Astapov told
    Belarusian television.
    The patients were men and women aged 30 to 60, deemed unable to
    function independently and whose relatives refused to care for
    them. They all lived in the one-story wooden building, constructed
    in 1905 with locked doors and bars on the windows, Zarembo said. He
    said most likely the doors of the patients' rooms were also locked.
    The nurse and the orderly unlocked all the doors they could, but
    some rooms were already cut off by flames, Zarembo said. The
    building was divided into two wings separated by a stone wall, and
    the wing where the fire began was destroyed, he said. Damage was
    less severe in the other half.
    Human rights activists said the fire was a result of the dismal
    state of Belarus' psychiatric hospitals, which are poorly funded
    and largely unreformed since the Soviet era.
    "These are Godforsaken places that are closed to public
    monitoring," said Garry Poganyailo, deputy chairman of the
    Belarusian Helsinki Group, a leading human rights organization.
    He said that even if the fire was set by a patient "it was the
    fault of the staff, who failed to fulfill their direct duties and
    watch the patients."
    Reached by telephone, officials at the hospital refused to
    comment.
    The fire occurred at 5 a.m., the Emergency Situations Ministry
    said, but officials in this often-secretive country did not release
    any information until about 12 hours later.
    The government said it had ordered an investigation.
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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