MOSCOW: A huge fire that broke out in the early hours of Saturday morning at a bar in the historic city of Kostroma claimed more than a dozen lives.

Firefighters fought through the early hours to extinguish the blaze at the popular Poligon bar in the city, which is around 300 kilometres northeast of Moscow. Emergency services said the blaze engulfed more than 3,500 square metres (37,700 square feet).

Some local media, quoting witnesses, said there was panic when the fire started as people rushed to an exit, causing a jam. One man forced a closed door open, possibly saving lives, according to reports.

Russian police in the meantime detained a man suspected to have caused the blaze. The suspect detained “has now been handed over to investigative authorities,” the Russian police said.

“Police officers identified and detained the suspect (behind) unlawful acts in an entertainment establishment in the city of Kostroma, which resulted in a fire and the death of people,” the police added.

Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal case of “causing death by negligence”.

State television aired night-time images of the bar — housed in a single-storey logistical centre — engulfed in flames.

Kostroma regional governor Sergei Sitnikov said 13 people were killed. “Two more bodies were recovered. This means the number of victims is now 15,” the TASS news agency later quoted law enforcement sources as saying.

Around 250 people were evacuated from the building when it caught fire, authorities said earlier.

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2022

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