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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

10 Dead in Cafe Blaze in Urals Town

Itar-TassA view of the gutted cafe where 10 bodies were found Monday in Orsk, a city of 250,000 in the Orenburg region.
Ten people were found dead after a fire swept through a cafe in the Orenburg region, police and emergency officials said Monday, and prosecutors indicated that they suspected arson.

The early morning blaze gutted a small cafe and bar at a market in the city of Orsk in the southern Urals.

The bodies of five men and five women were found, regional Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Vladislav Zubchenko said. He said all the victims were believed to have been found.

Officials initially said the fire followed an explosion, but Zubchenko and other officials later said the cause of the blaze was unclear. Witnesses reported hearing loud banging noises around the time the fire broke out, but the source of the noise was vague, Zubchenko said.

Prosecutors opened a criminal investigation on suspicion of murder, suggesting they believe it was an arson attack.

The victims included the cafe's owner, who may have been celebrating her birthday, as well as employees and patrons, Zubchenko said.

Rossia television reported that investigators were not ruling out the possibility that the victims were killed before the fire broke out and that the cafe was set ablaze in an attempt to destroy evidence. Regional emergency official Pyotr Lashko said on Rossia that one of the victims had a knife wound.

Television networks showed footage of the gutted, blackened interior of the cafe and workers carrying a body out in a black bag.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze shortly after midnight about 90 minutes after they were alerted to it, Zubchenko said.

Orsk is a city of about 250,000 people near the border with Kazakhstan.