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Russia: Deadly fire sweeps through psychiatric institution

By CNN Staff
September 15, 2013 -- Updated 0745 GMT (1545 HKT)
Fire fighters work at the site of a fire at a psychiatric hospital in Luka village, Novgorod region, Russia.
Fire fighters work at the site of a fire at a psychiatric hospital in Luka village, Novgorod region, Russia.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: As many as 37 people are dead in the fire, state media cite local investigators as saying
  • The fire broke out at the psychiatric institution in the early hours, reports say
  • The Emergencies Ministry says 23 people have been rescued, state media say
  • A fire at a psychiatric clinic in April killed 38 people, sparking calls for better fire safety

(CNN) -- Up to 37 people died Friday after a fire tor through a psychiatric institution in Russia, a regional branch of the country's Investigative Committee said, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

A representative of Russia's Emergencies Ministry gave a different toll, telling the news agency that 15 bodies had been recovered and 22 people were still missing after the fire outside the central Russian city of Veliky Novgorod.

A criminal case has been opened to look into the cause of the fire, according to a statement on the Investigative Committee's website.

A total of 59 people were inside the building when the fire broke out, the Health Ministry said, according to RIA Novosti. The Emergencies Ministry said 23 people have been rescued, according to the news agency.

Police are searching the area for residents who may have fled the site, it said.

The fire broke out shortly before 3 a.m. Moscow time in the men's ward of the Oksochi mental health care clinic, state-run Itar-Tass reported. The facility is a low-level wooden building.

The fire has been extinguished, the news agency said, and dozens of emergency personnel are working at the scene.

In April, a fire at another psychiatric hospital near the capital, Moscow, left 38 people dead. President Vladimir Putin called for an investigation and a closer focus on fire safety in hospitals after that blaze.

CNN's Susannah Palk contributed to this report.

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