MOSCOW, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- Thirty-seven people have been confirmed dead after a fire burned down a mental health care home in northwest Russia early Friday, according to the Investigative Committee.
The fire broke out at around 3:00 a.m. Moscow time (2300 GMT Thursday) in the men's ward of the one-story wooden facility in Luka village near the city of Veliky Norgorod.
The Emergency Situations Ministry, however, has confirmed only 15 casualties with 22 remain still missing.
A senior duty officer in the Novgorod regional department of the ministry, Denis Maliayev, told Xinhua by phone the number killed in the fire would likely rise as firefighters searched the debris.
The facility housed men over 60 years and women over 55 and severely disabled people over 18 with chronic mental disorders and in need of permanent care.
More than 70 emergency workers and 16 firefighting units were dispatched to the scene.
A source said it was not ruled out that the fire had been caused by a patient falling asleep in bed while smoking.
"Such accidents are unfortunately not rare," the source added.
The Investigative Committee said earlier a patient has set himself on fire.
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.