The city of Perm, lying on the European edge of the Ural Mountains 1,400 km (780 mi) east of Moscow, rarely appears in the international headlines, even though it is Russia’s sixth largest city with a population of over one million. On a weekend in early December 2009, however, it found itself facing the full glare of the world’s media, but not for a reason it would ever have chosen. A private party was in full swing at the Lazy Horse, a city-center nightclub that was celebrating its eighth anniversary. Between 250 and 300 guests were enjoying a floor show which apparently included fireworks. When one of these set light to wickerwork decorations on the ceiling, the flames spread through the building in seconds. In the pandemonium that followed many people were overcome by the heat and thick smoke, while others were crushed in the stampede to flee the building. Most had little chance of getting out unscathed as there was only one narrow exit from the club and fire regulations had been patently ignored.
There was a national outcry following the tragedy, by far Russia’s worst fire disaster since the fall of communism. The government in Moscow lambasted local and regional officials for having ridden slipshod over basic fire and safety procedures. In the immediate aftermath four people, including the club’s owner and the supplier of the fireworks, were arrested and charged with manslaughter. They had apparently ignored repeated demands from the authorities to modify the interior to make it comply with safety standards. The city’s mayor and entire regional administration also resigned en masse, amid accusations of endemic corruption among fire inspectors who were alleged to turn a routine blind eye to fire code violations in return for bribes.
When was the Perm Nightclub Fire: December 5 2009
Where was the Perm Nightclub Fire: Perm, Russia
What was the Perm Nightclub Fire death toll: 149 people died, including many later in hospital from the severe burns and other injuries sustained.
You should know: Lax enforcement of fire and safety regulations is sadly not untypical in Russia which, with some 18,000 fire-related deaths a year, has the worst such record of any developed country.