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Fire At Estonia Orphanage Kills Ten Disabled Children

February 20, 2011

A fire has raced through an orphanage for disabled children in western Estonia, killing 10 of them, a rescue service spokesman said.

There were 37 children and nine adults inside the wooden building when the fire started in the coastal town of Haapsalu, said Viktor Saaremets, a spokesman for the Western Estonia Rescue Services Centre.

“By the time rescue workers and firefighters arrived at the scene three or four minutes later the building was completely in flames,” he said.

Ten children were killed and one adult was injured, Saaremets said. The others were evacuated to a nearby building and were not hurt, he said.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.

“Fire safety inspectors went there in January and found that the building met all the necessary criteria,” Saaremets said.

The Estonian government met for an emergency meeting after the blaze and declared Monday a nationwide day of mourning.

Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves expressed his condolences.

“The tragic accident in the Haapsalu orphanage shocked the whole of Estonia today,” Ilves said in a brief statement.

The Haapsalu orphanage was opened as a home for disabled children in 1950, when Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union, according to its website. In 1996 it moved into the current building, which was funded by the Estonian government as well as Swedish, Finnish and US donors.

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