Russian serviceman carries a woman injured during a fire in a shop in the town of Ukhta
Alexander Skornyakov  /  Reuters
A Russian serviceman carries a woman injured during a fire in a shop in the town of Ukhta on Monday.
updated 7/11/2005 9:10:18 AM ET 2005-07-11T13:10:18

At least eight people were killed Monday in a fire in a store in the northern Russian city of Ukhta, police said, while the Emergency Situations Ministry put the toll at 16 and said they had been killed by an explosion.

The Federal Security Service in the Komi republic, where Ukhta is located, said 16 had been killed and 20 injured, the Interfax news agency reported.

Vadim Zhuravlev, a duty officer at the Komi regional department of the Russian Interior Ministry, said a fire had raced through a store selling gas fireplaces, and that eight people had died of smoke inhalation. He was unsure whether the fire had been preceded by an explosion.

There was no information about what had caused the blast in the two-story brick building, said Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov.

But Interfax, citing police, said that investigators had tentatively concluded that a natural gas canister had blown up. It said that the blast was followed by a fire.

The city is located in the far northern region of Komi, about 800 miles northeast of Moscow.

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