Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Sunday, 13 September 2009 15:28 UK

Dozens dead in Kazakhstan blaze


The aftermath of the fire

A fire at a hospital facility for drug addicts in the city of Taldykorgan in south-eastern Kazakhstan has killed 38 people, according to officials.

The country's emergency ministry said 40 staff and patients were rescued. The fire was large, it said, covering 650 sq m (7,000 sq ft).

Prime Minister Karim Masimov has ordered an inquiry.

Safety regulations are often violated in Kazakhstan, with frequent workplace accidents and fires as a result.

There were almost 10,000 fires in Kazakhstan in the first eight months of 2009, AP news agency quoted the emergency ministry as saying.

'Save us'

According to one report, firefighters were still tackling the blaze hours after it started.

Because of the materials that had been used in construction the fire spread very quickly
Vladimir Bozhko,
emergency situations minister

One woman, who gave her name to Associated Press as Fatima, said: "I heard them screaming for 20 minutes. They were screaming, 'Save us, save us'."

At least 10 people are being treated in hospital, with two in critical condition.

There are as yet no details on the cause of the fire, which broke out early on Sunday.

However, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Bozhko said that bars and locked doors may have prevented people from escaping.

He said some work had been done to redress building violations found in May but an alarm system had not yet been installed.

Mr Bozhko also said firefighters had received the emergency call too late to prevent the inferno.

"Because of the materials that had been used in construction the fire spread very quickly," he said.

Prime Minister Masimov immediately ordered a commission to be set up to investigate the cause of the fire, a government spokeswoman said, according to Russian news agency Ria-Novosti.

"Today the head of the government signed such a decree; the commission will be led by Deputy Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov who, in the nearest future, will be flying from Astana to Taldykorgan," a spokeswoman was quoted as saying.

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