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Fire tears through Russian hostel

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Reports say more than 80 squatters were inside the building at the time

At least 15 people have been killed in a fire at a hostel in southern Russia. Seven others are in hospital.

The three-storey wooden building in Molodyozhny village in the southern region of Astrakhan had been shut down after being condemned as dangerous.

But Russian media have reported that as many as 80 squatters had moved in and reconnected the wiring.

The cause of the fire was not clear, but investigators say it may have been the careless use of electric heaters.

The surviving inhabitants of the hostel were evacuated to a nearby school.

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Fires in older buildings in Russia are not uncommon, due to official negligence and breaches of safety rules, correspondents say.

Last month, 23 people died in a fire in a retirement home in northern Russia.

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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