37 dead in Russian psychiatric hospital fire

MOSCOW - Russia's top investigative agency says 37 people have died in a fire in a Russian psychiatric hospital.

The fire in the one-story hospital in the village of Luka in the northwestern Novgorod region erupted around 3 a.m. Friday and quickly engulfed the structure, which dates back to the 19th century, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

The Investigative Committee said Friday that rescuers so far have recovered 10 bodies. It did not explain how it knew about the other deaths.

The agency added that the blaze was apparently sparked by a patient.

Authorities had long warned that the mostly wooden building was unsafe.

According to Reuters, investigators and the chief doctor initially suspected a patient started the fire but regional governor Sergei Mitin said it might have been accidental.

"Medical personnel saw a patient who was shrouded in flames. It's possible that he was smoking in bed and the mattress caught fire," Mitin said, according to Interfax. He said the ward that caught fire housed severely ill patients.

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