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4 held in fatal blaze at Russian nightclub

112 killed in fireworks-fueled inferno

PERM, Russia - Grieving relatives yesterday began to bury the victims of a nightclub fire that left at least 112 people dead, as four people were ordered held pending an investigation into the country's worst blaze in decades.

About 130 people remained hospitalized with injuries from the early Saturday blaze, which witnesses said had been sparked by onstage fireworks that shot into the decorative twig ceiling of the Lame Horse club in the industrial city of Perm.

The federal Investigative Committee said that the suspects - the club's owner, the executive director, the artistic director and a businessman hired to install pyrotechnics on the night of the blaze - were ordered taken into custody yesterday by Leninsky District Court.

The committee's Web site said that the four were suspected of negligence causing multiple deaths and violation of fire-safety rules causing multiple deaths.

Mourning residents of the Ural Mountain city of more than one million were indignant over the alleged negligence in a country where enforcement of fire-safety standards is infamously poor and where there have been several catastrophic blazes in recent years at drug-treatment facilities, nursing homes, apartment buildings and nightclubs.

Nadezhda Zhizhina placed flowers on the icy ground outside the Perm City Morgue in memory of her son, Sergei, 21, who she said left behing a wife who was eight months pregnant.

She wasn't expecting the compensation that officials have promised to other victims' relatives because Sergei earned money at the club as an unofficial administrator.

"I can't even imagine what to do," Zhizhina said, weeping. "He was a golden boy."

Many victims were trapped in a panicked crush for the exit as they attempted to escape the flames and thick black smoke.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said the club managers had been fined twice in the past for breaking fire-safety regulations.

Russian clubs and restaurants often cover ceilings with plastic insulation and a layer of willow twigs to create a rustic look, one of many uses of combustible materials in buildings by businessmen who bribe officials to look the other way.

The nation records up to 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per-capita rate in the United States and other Western countries.