MOSCOW: Twelve people died overnight as a fire swept through a rehab centre with barred windows in central Russia, investigators said today.
The bodies of 12 people, two of them women, were found in the residential building in the mainly Muslim Bashkortostan region, the regional Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said in a statement.
“They are believed all to be members of a social rehabilitation centre. Their identities are being established,” investigators said.
Residents said the single-story building in the town of Sterlitamak, about 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) east of Moscow, housed a private drug rehabilitation centre, ProUfu.ru regional news website reported.
An emergency situations official told Russian television that the windows “could not be opened from the inside or were bolted.”
The bodies had “no visible injuries”, investigators said.
“Based on the appearance of the bodies, they died from carbon monoxide poisoning,” the head of the emergency service in Bashkortostan, Marat Latypov, told Interfax news agency.
The head of the Bashkortostan region, Rustem Khamitov, said the victims were undergoing work therapy to get rid of “harmful habits”.
He called for an investigation into why the “12 people were living in a small room with barred windows and a metal door.”
The fire was reported at 3:00 am Moscow time (GMT) and took almost two hours to extinguish, the regional emergency situations ministry said.
Russia frequently sees deadly fires at state-run facilities for the elderly or those with mental illness, which often have bars on windows and locked doors and are located in isolated areas.
In 2013, 37 people were killed when a fire swept through a psychiatric hospital in northwestern Russia.
Russia is gripped by drug addiction fuelled by easy access to narcotics with the head of the federal anti-narcotics service estimating last week that 7.3 million people were addicted to drugs.