Twenty-six people are believed to have died early Feb. 23 as fire swept through a retirement home in the small town of Alsunga in western Latvia, authorities and media reported. Faulty wiring and incorrect use of electrical heating devices are being blamed for the tragedy.
Firefighters saved 66 people from the blaze, the news agency LETA reported. Firefighters were still at the scene by midday Feb. 23 and still had not located all the bodies, Latvian State Radio reported.
The fire was reported at about 1:30 a.m. at the Specialized State Social Care Home “Reģi.” The home is on territory once belonging to the local manor and its main building was constructed in 1890. The facility had room for 84 mentally ill elderly residents, according to an overview of its 2005 activities.
President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga expressed her condolences to the families of the victims.
“This has been a night of misfortune and tragedy in Latvia,” she wrote in a letter to the families. The families are not alone in their pain, Vīķe-Freiberga added, calling the event a national tragedy.
The loss of life is the greatest in a fire in recent Latvian history, news media reported, citing the State Fire and Rescue Service.
Alsunga is about 20 kilometers west of Kuldīga and about halfway between the port cities of Ventspils and Liepāja.
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