MOSCOW — An explosion apparently caused by pyrotechnics tore through a nightclub in the Russian city of Perm early Saturday, killing at least 94 people, according to news reports in the country.
It was not immediately clear if the pyrotechnics were kept in storage at the club or being used as part of a show like in the fire that killed 100 people at a rock club in the U.S. state of Rhode Island in 2003.
“The majority of the deaths were the result of burns or gas inhalation,” state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for Russia’s top investigate body, as saying “Along with this, there was a crush at the exit.”
Markin said most of the victims were young people and that there was no suspicion of a terrorist attack, the report said.
Russia has been on edge since last week’s bombing of the prestigious Nevsky Express passenger train midway between Moscow and St. Petersburg, which killed 27 people. It was the first fatal terrorist attack outside Russia’s restive Caucasus republics since 2004.
Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for the bombing.
In the chaotic aftermath of Saturday’s blast and subsequent fire, casualty figures differed. State television news channel Vesti cited Russia’s top investigative body as saying the death toll was higher than 100, but later reports cited the regional emergency department giving the toll as 94 dead and 139 injured.
Perm, a city of around 1 million people, is about 700 miles (1,200 kilometres) east of Moscow in the Ural Mountains.
Enforcement of fire safety standards in Russia is notoriously lax and in recent years there have been several catastrophic blazes at drug-treatment facilities and apartment buildings.
Russia records nearly 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per capita rate in the United States and other Western countries. Nightclub fires have killed thousands of people worldwide.
Ten people died when a so-called “fire show” went out of control at a Moscow club in March 2007.
In February 2008, a fire in the Golden Rock nightclub in the Siberian city of Omsk killed four people. Officials said the blast might have been caused by natural gas.
The fire in Rhode Island on Feb. 20, 2003, at The Station nightclub in West Warwick began when pyrotechnics used as a stage prop by the 1980s rock band Great White set ablaze cheap soundproofing foam on the walls and ceiling.