Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Sunday, 1 February 2009

Fatal fire at Russia nursing home

The old people's home after the fire
Firefighters arrived too late to stop the building being gutted

At least 22 people have died after a fire engulfed a care home in northern Russia, local officials have said.

The blaze, in the village of Podyelsk in the Komi Republic, was reported at 1820 (1520 GMT) on Saturday.

The building was in flames by the time firefighters arrived and it took them two hours to bring it under control.

Three residents were saved from the fire. Rescuers combing the ruins found 22 bodies, as well as fragments believed to belong to another.

Officials say an unextinguished cigarette could have been the cause.

Komi map

Grigory Gorbunov, a spokesman for the Emergency Ministry, told Russian TV the authorities were slow to report the fire.

"The firemen were alerted way too late and when they arrived the whole building was in flames," he said, quoted by AFP news agency.

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a full investigation into the incident.

Russia has experienced a series of fires at state-run institutions in recent years, many blamed on negligence by officials.

More than 60 people died in a fire in a nursing home in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia in March 2007.

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