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Death Toll in Russian Nightclub Blaze Reaches 113

russian-nightclub-jems

MANSUR MIROVALEV

Associated Press Writer

PERM, Russia - Grieving friends and relatives of victims of a Russian nightclub fire buried the dead on a frigid Monday as the death toll climbed to 113 and looked likely to rise.



Prosecutors on Monday charged four people in connection with the blaze - the club's co-owner, its manager and entertainment director and the head of a fireworks company whose indoor show sparked the blaze. All are in custody.



The prospect of many more deaths looms over the stricken city of Perm, where the Lame Horse nightclub caught fire early Saturday. Russia's health minister Tatiana Golikova said at least 68 of the 130 people hospitalized after the fire are on respirators.



The raging fire shocked the city of 1 million and the nation, which observed an official day of mourning, including the cancellation of many entertainment events.



"This is a tragedy for the entire country. More than a hundred young people died _ they are part of our generation," said Muscovite Sergei Novikov.



In Perm, many residents sounded their car horns Monday in a sign of commemoration, while others flocked to a park in front of the club to lay red flowers in tribute.



At snow-covered cemeteries throughout the city, mourners wept inconsolably as temperatures dipped to around minus 15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit).



The club's co-owner and the two employees face up to seven years in prison if convicted on charges of fire-safety violations leading to the deaths of more than two people, according to a statement from the Prosecutor-General's Investigative Committee. The fireworks company director could be sentenced to three years if convicted of lesser charges.



The Emergencies Ministry said a young woman's death of severe burns Monday raised the death toll to 113.



Most of the dead were killed by burns or gas inhalation, officials have said, although some were crushed as the crowd tried to flee through a single exit.



Video footage from Russian television showed the club's ceiling covered in a pattern of woven twigs, which quickly caught fire from one of the pyrotechnics. The ceiling behind the twigs reportedly was highly inflammable plastic.



Enforcement of fire safety standards is infamously poor in Russia and there have been several catastrophic blazes at drug-treatment facilities, nursing homes, apartment buildings and nightclubs in recent years.



___



Associated Press writer Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

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