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5 Chinese students killed in Moscow fire
( 2003-11-25 00:24) (China Daily)

Five Chinese students were killed, 34 injured and another 13 missing in a fire that swept through a dormitory block in Moscow in the early hours Monday, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The fire, possibly caused by an electrical fault, killed 36 foreign students and injured 200 others at Moscow's Patrice Lumumba People's Friendship University, local officials said.

It is possible that the missing Chinese students are among the 36 victims, an official at the Chinese Embassy in Moscow said Monday.

He said the injured Chinese students had been sent to seven local hospitals.

President Hu Jintao, after hearing the news, urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education and the Chinese Embassy in Moscow to keep in touch with the Russian side to get the full facts about the situation.

President Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao also urged the ministries and the embassy to look after the injured Chinese students and locate the missing ones.

Chinese Ambassador to Russia Liu Guchang and other Chinese embassy officials there went to the site to assist with the rescue work.

About 80 Chinese students live in the part of the building where the fire took place. The official added that the embassy is helping to confirm the identity of the injured Chinese.

Many casualties were caused when students jumped from windows to escape the blaze in the crowded five-storey block housing students from the developing world.

"People were jumping from the windows because it started on the second floor and there was no other way out," Richard Mallobe, a sociology student from Liberia, told reporters. "It was absolutely horrible.

"It happened very fast. Some people jumped and were burnt so we tried to get them into ambulances."

Among the casualties were students from China, Bangladesh, Viet Nam and a number of African countries, a foreign-student union told Interfax news agency.

"Twenty-eight people died inside the building, three bodies were discovered outside and one person died later," a city police spokesman said.

He said 139 people had been treated for injuries and a total of 272 people, including students from China, Viet Nam, Ecuador, Tahiti, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Angola were registered as living in the block.

Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov told NTV that investigators suspected the fire was caused by an electrical fault.

"It is difficult to talk about the cause," he said. "According to preliminary information, which we have now investigated, the cause was domestic. Most likely, there was a short circuit in room 203."

However, Russian agencies reported a criminal investigation had been opened and authorities were not ruling out arson.

The university, founded in 1960, was named after Congo's first president after the African nation gained independence from Belgium. It was designed to provide education to students from the developing world.

China lodges representations

The Foreign Ministry lodged representations with the Russian embassy in China for the Chinese casualties in the fire in a Moscow university, according to a source with the ministry.

Qiu Shaofang, deputy director-general of the ministry's consular affairs department, made the representation with Sergei Goncharov, minister-counselor in Russian embassy, Monday afternoon.

Qiu said China was shocked at the incident and Chinese state leaders showed extreme concern for the personal safety of the Chinese students there.

He urged the Russian side to pay high attention to the incident and promptly handle the remaining affairs.

He asked them to provide full aid for the injured, an active search for the missing students, the list of casualties, investigation into the cause of the fire and convenience for visa application for relatives of the victims.

He also called on relevant departments of the Russian side to take effective measures to improve the study and living conditions of the Chinese students and guarantee their personal and property safety so as to avoid the reoccurrence of such an incident.

Goncharov said both sides were distressed by the tragic incident. He expressed condolences to the Chinese victims and sympathy to their family members.

He said that the Russian side will promptly investigate the cause of the fire, punish the people accountable and provide timely visa application to the relatives of the casualties.

He said that the Russian side would urge relevant departments to properly handle the remaining affairs and take measures for ensuring the personal safety of all foreign students, including the Chinese students. Enditem

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