A fire at a psychiatric hospital killed 37 people in northwest Russia on Friday. This deadly fire was started by a patient that either set fire deliberately or accidently while smoking. The fire began in the middle of the night; the patient set himself on fire and his bed. From there the fire swiftly swept through the facility.
The Oksochi Psychiatric Hospital is located in the village of Luka which is approximately 137 miles southeast of Saint Petersburg. This wood and concrete building housed about 60 males; including 15 bed ridden patients.
This facility had received previous warnings from authorities concerning enhanced fire safety. Officials told authorities to make sure all safety violations were clear by August 1 due to the state of the facility.
A nurse died in the fire while trying to save patients. Nurse Yulia Anufriyeva left behind four children and a husband. Rescue crews were there rummaging through the debris and removing dead bodies in black plastic bags. At the scene of the fire there were 23 people that had been rescued and they were hoping to find more survivors.
The firefighters responded quickly but the fire spread even faster. The blaze had consumed the entire facility by the time they arrived. This particular hospital housed people with serious psychological disorders; this made evacuations more complicated than normal.
One witness who lives near the hospital, Lydia Vasiyeva, said the fire was spreading so fast that patients had to be pushed out of windows. She said initially it appeared that many were too afraid to go out or just didn’t want to. She said it was extremely scary.
Another witness, Diana Akakiyeva, said she looked out her window and fire was everywhere. She said she was crying and in shock. She added they were lucky that it wasn’t too windy that night or everything would have gone up in flames.
Vladimir Lukin of the Kremlin’s human rights sounded the alarm over all the psychiatric hospitals in that county. He was signaling for joint effort to improve the oversight. He said the entire society should protect citizens who have found themselves in this difficult situation. They cannot protect themselves.
The wing of this hospital was one of the oldest in the district. It was built in 1875. In Soviet times the building was an orphanage and then part of the Oksochi mental facility. It was surrounded by a dark forest that police searched in case some of the patients had tried to run away from the fire, but no one was located.
This deadly fire was the most recent tragedy to hit a psychiatric hospital in Russia where old Soviet-era buildings are still in use. Many of the managers take a laid back approach to fire safety; even after many warnings.
Officials are hoping that this tragedy will awaken the need for others to rectify their safety issues before they experience an unnecessary repeat of this type of travesty. Too many lives were lost due to the negligent approach to fire safety.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)