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Russia launches investigation after eight people killed in apartment building fire

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Firefighters work at the site of fire in the city of Yekaterinburg.
Firefighters work at the site of fire in the city of Yekaterinburg.   -   Copyright  Ministry of Emergency Situations press service via AP
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Russian authorities have launched a criminal investigation after eight people, including a child, were killed in a fire at an apartment block in the Urals.

Fire services were called to reports of a blaze in a nine-story residential building in the city of Yekaterinburg early on Tuesday.

The fire was first reported at 02:58 local time when an apartment on the second floor was burning, and dense smoke filled the building.

The Regional Ministry for Emergency Services said that firefighters immediately began evacuating residents, and had controlled the blaze within an hour.

"The firefighters carried five people out of the burning apartment, including one child, and handed them over to doctors," the Ministry said in a statement.

"In conditions of strong smoke, the gas and smoke protection service organised the evacuation and rescue of residents through a burning entrance."

90 people, including nine children, were evacuated from the building in total, and a temporary accommodation centre was set up nearby.

Investigators from the Sverdlovsk region have said that a criminal probe had been opened to determine the cause of the fire and establish measures that could prevent a similar incident in the future. Witnesses were questioned at the scene and the bodies of the victims have been sent for medical examination.

"The employees of the Investigative Committee will without fail find out the reasons and conditions that led to this incident," the authority said.

Possible explanations include careless handling of fire, short-circuiting of electrical wiring, and the malfunctioning of electrical equipment, the Investigative Committee added.