Moscow, April 7 (Reuters): Twenty-two Russian schoolchildren, aged 10 to 16 years, died today when a fire tore through a village school in Siberia, an emergencies ministry spokeswoman said.
Twelve other people from the secondary school in the vast, sparsely-populated Yakutia region were taken to hospital suffering from burns and other injuries, she said. The fire erupted shortly after classes began, a two-storey wooden building, in the village of Sydyi Bal near the town of Vilyuisk, 5000 km east of Moscow.
The building went up like matchwood and was blazing from top to bottom by the time fire-fighters reached the scene, Gavril Fedorov, deputy head of regional fire-fighting services, was reported by Interfax news agency as saying. Authorities said there were more than 120 children and teachers on the premises at the time. Many of those who leapt to safety from upper storey classrooms were treated for fall injuries.
President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to take immediate steps to help families of victims. The exact causes for the fire was not immediately known.
The region, which has large diamond and gold reserves, is sparsely populated and extra medical staff and supplies were being flown in from the regional capital of Yakutsk, 400 km away.