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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 20:27 GMT
Hostel's 'horrible nightmare'
Student outside the charred hostel
Students rushed to the blaze from other hostels to help out
Eyewitnesses have spoken of their horror as a blaze quickly swept through a Moscow hostel, leaping from floor to floor on a freezing night.

Some accounts of the disaster suggest that the Russian rescue services were slow to respond to news of the blaze at the foreign students' hostel.

"The fire started at around 0200 and Russian fire fighters came at around 0300 and only one ambulance came there to help," Vashish, from Mauritius, told BBC News Online by e-mail.

"There was only a small fire in the second floor [first floor, UK] which could have been easily extinguished. But I believe the rescuers came too late."

A man from Ecuador shattered himself and died when he jumped out of the fifth [fourth, UK-style] floor
Adam Rosales

He added that there were no security arrangements and no fire extinguishers in the building.

Nafafe Tengna, a third-year journalism student from Guinea, told the Associated Press news agency that students had helped each other to escape.

"Students had to do it all themselves, holding mattresses for those who were jumping out," he said.

Half-naked survivors suffered frostbite as they waited for ambulances in sub-zero temperatures, he said.

Abdallah Bong, a student from Chad, said dozens of fire engines had been hindered from reaching the building by cars parked in a narrow approach road.

"It was like a horrible nightmare," said Mr Bong.

"We saw them crying for help and jumping out of the windows and we could do nothing to save them."

Doctors report that many survivors had broken limbs or backs after jumping from the windows of the five-storey building, while three of the dead were found lying on the street.

"A man from Ecuador shattered himself and died when he jumped out of the fifth [fourth, UK-style] floor," said Adam Rosales, a 22-year old Peruvian student, as he gazed at charred building.

Katya, a student living in a nearby hostel, told the BBC's Russian service that other students had rushed to the aid of those in the burning building:

"Nobody slept, we all knew what was happening. Everyone began helping straight away, no one had to be asked, everyone came out immediately."

Timeline: Russia
04 Nov 03 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Russia
04 Nov 03 |  Country profiles


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