Fire at Estonian home for children with disabilities, 10 killed

Feb 21, 2011
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According to a rescue service spokesman, a fire raced through an orphanage for children with disabilities in Western Estonia on Sunday, killing 10 of them.

Nine adults and 37 children with various disabilities were inside the wooden building located in the coastal town of Haapsalu, when the fire started at 1230 GMT. By the time firefighters arrived at the scene, the building was completely in flames.

“Fire safety inspectors went there in January and found that the building met all the necessary criteria,” said Viktor Saaremets, a rescue official.

The orphanage was opened as a home for children with disabilities in 1950, when Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union, according to its website. In 1996 it moved into the current building, which was funded by the Estonian government as well as Swedish, Finnish and U.S. donors.

The Estonian government has met for an emergency meeting and declared Monday a nationwide day of mourning.

“The tragic accident in the Haapsalu orphanage shocked the whole of Estonia today,” Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said in a brief statement.

Estonian newspaper Postimees showed pictures of victims being carried out from a window, as thick smoke billowed from the roof.

Local media reported that firefighters took two hours to bring the blaze under control.

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip vowed Monday to rebuild the children’s home destroyed by the deadly fire and to provide emergency housing for the survivors.

Author: Jennifer Green