Russian cafe fire kills at least 13, injures 5

MOSCOW — A fire at a cafe in the Russian town of Kostroma killed at least 13 people and injured five on Saturday, local authorities said.

Kostroma region governor Sergei Sitnikov said 13 people died in the fire and five others received minor injuries. Russian news agency Interfax quoted local emergency officials as saying the death toll stood at 15. The conflicting figures could not immediately be reconciled.

The fire started in the early hours after someone apparently used a flare, authorities said. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that a fight broke out in the cafe shortly before the fire, but it was not immediately clear if it had anything to do with the use of a flare.

Rescuers were able to evacuate 250 people. The cafe’s roof collapsed during the fire, which engulfed an area of ​​3,500 square meters (over 37,000 square feet). Firefighters spent five hours battling the blaze and around ten residents of a nearby apartment building were evacuated as a precaution.

A criminal investigation has been opened and police have arrested a suspect.

Ikhtiyar Mirzoyev, a member of the regional legislature and owner of the cafe, promised assistance to those affected by the fire.

Kostroma, a river town of 270,000, is located about 340 kilometers (210 miles) north of Moscow.

It was not the first time that pyrotechnics caused a deadly fire in a Russian recreation area. In 2009, more than 150 people were killed in a fire at the Lame Horse nightclub in the city of Perm that broke out after someone set off fireworks.

About Walter Bartholomew

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