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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

11 Die in Midnight Blaze At University Dormitory

A fire at a Moscow State University dormitory killed 11 people Saturday, in what police described as a tragedy probably caused by a drunken smoker's carelessness and panic.

Five men and six women perished in the deadly blaze, including one South Korean and four Chinese students. Nikolai Sarychev, Moscow fire department spokesman, said there would have been fewer victims had residents of the 16-story dormitory at 7 Ulitsa Kravchenko not panicked and tried to escape in elevators.

The fire started in a second-floor room where people had been drinking and spread for at least 10 minutes before the alarm came in at 12:06 a.m. The first firefighting crew arrived at the site four minutes later; however, it was too late for some of the second-floor residents, he said.

Seven people died from smoke inhalation in one elevator after it got stuck, Sarychev said. Most of them could have saved themselves by using the stairs instead, he said.

Another person, a professional stuntman, jumped out of a second-floor room to his death, Sarychev said.

The fire destroyed a mattress where one of the revelers had been lying, suggesting careless smoking, although an electrical cause has not been completely ruled out, he said.

Four people were hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation, which included poisoning from toxic fumes generated by burning plastics. None of them was seriously hurt, and one was released from a clinic Monday, Sarychev said.

Moscow fires killed 303 persons in the first 11 months of this year and that most of the 14,128 fires registered in Moscow from January to November were started by burning cigarettes, with electrical appliances and fires set by children trailing, Sarychev said.

He said his service is bracing for an increase in apartment fires caused by faulty electrical garlands and candles on Christmas and New Year's trees.