At least 13 people have lost their lives in a massive blaze that broke out in a nightclub in the Russian city of Kostroma in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Local authorities suspect that ceiling decorations caught fire after a patron fired a flare gun. Media reports suggest a brawl preceded the tragedy.
“At the moment, all premises of the ‘Poligon’ club have been examined, debris has yet to be cleared in some places,” a local emergency services representative told TASS news agency.
He added that “13 people fell victim to the fire.”
Kostroma Region Governor Sergey Sitnikov confirmed the death toll on Telegram, adding that five more people had sustained minor injuries which did not require hospitalization.
TASS, citing anonymous officials, reported that the blaze started after a partygoer fired a flare gun inside the premises. According to some sources, a brawl had preceded the fire, but the two incidents were not connected. Local police say they have already apprehended the suspect and a criminal probe has been launched.
A report from TASS, citing a local police official, said the suspect had admitted to firing the flare gun.
“He explained that an altercation in the club was the reason,” the official is quoted as saying.
That version of events has been corroborated by other media outlets and Telegram channels.
Later on Saturday, Russia’s Investigative Committee confirmed the detention a 23-year-old male suspect. Authorities also said a director of the company running the club has been detained on charges violating safety regulations.
Governor Sitnikov declared Monday will be a day of mourning in the region and pledged assistance to the families of the dead.
Kostroma is a city of over 270,000, located 300km to the northeast of Moscow. With a wealth of historic buildings, it is a popular tourist attraction and part of Russia’s ‘Golden Ring’ route.