Firefighters try to extinguish the fire at a nursing home for mentally disabled seniors in Novgorod region, northwest of Moscow, Russia, Sept. 13, 2013. About three dozen people were missing after a fire broke out at the nursing home, local media reported early Friday morning. (Xinhua/Emergency Situations Ministry of Russia)
MOSCOW, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- Six people were killed and about three dozen were missing after a fire burnt early Friday a mental health care home northwest of Moscow, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.
The fire broke out at around 3:00 a.m. Moscow time (2300 GMT Thursday) at the men's ward of the one-story wooden facility in Luka village near Veliky Norgorod.
About 60 people, including 15 bedridden patients, were staying at the building and more than 20 were evacuated, ministry spokesman Oleg Voronov said.
"The fate of 37 patients remains unclear, but that does not mean they are dead," the Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying.
The facility is keeping men over 60 years old and women over 55 and heavily disabled people over 18, who have chronic mental disorders and need permanent medical care.
More than 70 emergency workers and 16 units of machinery were dispatched to the scene to extinguish the blaze.
The regional law enforcement department is investigating the circumstances of the fire.
"It is early to say about the reasons for the fire so far ... The cleanup of the clinic debris continues," an unnamed source in local emergency department told Itar-Tass.
Another source said it was not ruled out that a patient was smoking in bed, fell asleep with a cigarette.
"Such accidents are unfortunately not rare," the source added.
The Russian Investigative Committee said earlier that "according to preliminary reports, a patient set himself and his bed on fire."
A nurse's aide, who was saving people, died in the fire, said the anti-crime organization.
This incident is another in a chain of fires at mental institutions across Russia this year. On April 2, an early morning fire at a mental institution in the town of Ramensky north of Moscow killed 38, including two nurses.
That deadly fire prompted President Vladimir Putin to call for a closer look at fire safety in hospitals across the country.