A fire broke out at a hospital in southern Moscow early Friday, killing at least four patients and forcing the evacuation of dozens of other patients, an emergency official said The blaze broke out around 5 a.m. (0200 GMT) in the multistory, main campus of the Seventh Clinical Hospital, said Veronika Smolskaya, a spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry.
She said four patients were killed in the blaze, and 97 patients had to be evacuated in the cold, early morning hours to other buildings in the complex. It wasn't immediately clear if the deaths were caused by fire or smoke inhalation, Smolskaya said.
She said firefighters extinguished the blaze about 30 minutes later. The cause of the fire had not yet been determined.
Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the city prosecutors office, said an electrical short circuit or negligent handling of electrical equipment may have sparked the blaze. But ITAR-Tass cited an unnamed fire investigator as saying a burning cigarette was considered the likely cause.
Russia records about 18,000 fire deaths a year, roughly 10 times the rate in the United States and 12.5 times higher than in Britain, reports the AP. I.L.