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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July, 2005, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Blaze kills 20 in N Russia shop
Scene of fire in Ukhta
Dense smoke filled the building as the flames spread
A fire - believed to be deliberate - has killed at least 20 people in a shop in the northern Russian town of Ukhta.

A spokesman for the local prosecutor's office said a container with a flammable substance had been thrown at the two-storey building.

Flames spread quickly through the Passazh shop following the incident, at 1358 (0958 GMT).

Ukhta lies in the oil-rich Komi region in Russia's far north, some 1,500km (930 miles) from Moscow.

Barred windows

Firefighters are still trying to put out the blaze, in the old part of Ukhta.

There are fears the death toll could rise, as at least five injured people are in a critical condition and there may be more people trapped in the building.

At least 30 people were evacuated from the scene.

Local officials said the incident was unlikely to be a terrorist attack, and that the canister had apparently been thrown by two teenagers.

But the fire spread easily because of plastic panelling on the walls of the building. Most of the deaths were from suffocation.

The shop's ground-floor windows were barred, making it harder for people to get out.




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