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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Barman's Act Sparks Fire At Strip Club, Killing 10

MTEmergency workers carrying a body bag out of Lenkom Theater on Sunday.
Ten people died at a Moscow strip club early Sunday when a fire show involving a barman went horribly wrong.

The blaze swept through 911 VIP, located in a wing of Lenkom Theater near Pushkin Square, when a barman trying to set himself alight accidentally set the club on fire, Moscow Deputy Prosecutor Vladimir Ponevezhsky told reporters.

The barmen lost control and poured too much alcohol on himself, around 200 to 300 milliliters, said Yevgeny Bobylev, spokesman for the city's emergency response department.

"The clothes of the barman were on fire, and then the flame jumped to a five-liter canister of alcohol, and then all of the club's stage caught fire," Bobylev said, Interfax reported.

The barman may have been drunk, Rossia television said Sunday evening.

Neither the fire alarm nor fire extinguishers worked in the club, the channel reported.

Four women and six men died in the blaze, and eight others were hospitalized with burns and smoke inhalation. Only five of the dead -- four men and one woman -- had been identified as of late Sunday. They included two Bulgarian citizens.

Many of the dead choked on toxic fumes on the club's second floor, where private booths are located, Ponevezhsky said.

People poured out of the club early Sunday, crying, "Bring stretchers, call an ambulance," said Sergei, 50, who lives in the Lenkom theater and declined to give his last name.

"I ran out to see if I could help," he said. "They were all lightly dressed." Sergei said he lived in the theater while he works on renovation there.

About 100 people were in the club at the time of the fire.

The smell of smoke still lingered outside the Lenkom building on Malaya Dmitrovka late Sunday morning as bodies in black bags were carried to waiting ambulances. Police blocked off the entrance to the club, which is in the same wing of the buildings as the Planeta Fitness sports club.

An employee at the Dymov restaurant, which is also located in the building, was offering television journalists some video footage of the night's chaos filmed with a mobile phone. He refused to disclose his asking price to a newspaper reporter.

The fire began at 3:09 a.m. on the first floor and spread to cover 100 cubic meters of the club, Ponevezhsky said. Toxic smoke was the cause of many of the deaths, he said. It took firefighters two hours to extinguish the fire.

It was unclear what would happen next to 911 VIP, known as one of the more popular and expensive strip clubs in Moscow. Nobody at the other clubs answered the telephone Sunday.

The fire comes only five days after a blaze killed 63 people in a retirement home in the Krasnodar region.

More than 17,000 people die in fires each year in Russia, a per capita death rate that is more than five times higher than that in the United States. Lax fire safety rules and negligence are to blame for many of the deaths.

911 is one of Moscow's better-known chain of strip clubs. The first 911 opened in the hotel Orlyonek in 2000, and 911 VIP, as the club on Malaya Dmitrovka is called, opened in 2005. A 911 also operates in Yekaterinburg. 911 was voted best chain of erotic clubs in the Nightlife Awards in 2007.

On Sunday, 911 regulars expressed their shock on a strip-club forum on the sextalk.ru web site.

"It was my favorite club," wrote one. "Ten killed. I'm still in shock."

"Now you'll think 100 times before you take your trousers off in a club," wrote another. "You know, any of us could have been there."

Moscow city prosecutors said they were still investigating what exactly sparked the fire and whether the club had permission for the show.

"We didn't find any documents giving permission," Ponevezhsky said.

The prosecutor's office will carry out checks on "similar venues," he said.