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Last Updated:  Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Fire destroys Russian school
Remains of school
The building was almost totally destroyed
A fire has swept through a boarding school in southern Russia, killing at least 28 deaf children.

Officials said more than 100 other people had been injured in the blaze, which broke out in the early hours of Thursday morning as the children were sleeping.

The fire, in Makhachkala, the capital of the southern republic of Dagestan, almost totally destroyed the two-storey building.

We practically have fires in schools every day in which our children are dying
Valentina Ivanova
parliament official
Authorities in Dagestan declared a day of mourning for the children killed.

The incident follows the deaths of 22 children in an almost identical fire at a school in Siberia on Monday.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has demanded a review of school safety after the two fires.

At least 16 people have been admitted to hospital following the latest fire. Four children and a fireman are reported to be in intensive care.

Shortage of exits

Scene of fires at two Russian schools
The fire began at around 0230 local time (2230 GMT Wednesday) and raged until dawn.

BBC Moscow correspondent Nikolai Gorshkov said poor maintenance and non-existent fire precautions were apparently to blame.

The rescue operation was particularly difficult because the children had to be awakened individually as they could not hear alarms.

It was also hampered by metal bars on the ground floor windows and an apparent shortage of emergency exits.

The emergency services were alerted 20 minutes after the fire broke out, as staff apparently tried to deal with the fire themselves. Seventeen fire crews were then sent to the scene.

They managed to evacuate 138 of the 166 people in the building at the time.
Injured boy in hospital
Several children are still being treated in hospital

The children who died were aged seven to 14, according to Russian media.

Monday's fire took place in the Siberian republic of Yakutia, killing 22 pupils aged 11-18. The fire broke out at the beginning of the school day, destroying the wooden two-storey building.

At least 10 other children were admitted to hospital with burns and fractured limbs after jumping out of the school's windows.

Experts have warned that unless more money is pumped into the country's crumbling infrastructure, more tragedies like this are bound to happen.

"We practically have fires in schools every day in which our children are dying," said State Duma official Valentina Ivanova.

"We must do something about the schools so that this does not happen again."

Most school buildings in Russia's rural villages are wooden and rely on stoves for heating.

According to Russia's Izvestia newspaper, there were 700 fires in Russian schools last year.

Country profile: Russia
25 Mar 03  |  Country profiles

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