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Migrant workers killed in Moscow blaze

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At least 15 people have died in a fire in a two-storey Moscow market warehouse used by migrant workers as a temporary residence.

The blaze, which officials said took two hours to put out, erupted early on Tuesday on the southern outskirts of Kachalovsky.

An emergency ministry official said that attempts by the workers to stave off the frigid Moscow spring probably led to the fire. 

"The fire could have started from the electric space heater. It was probably left on all night because the structure was turned into living quarters," an unnamed investigator told ITAR-TASS news agency.

Police said they have opened a criminal investigation but have not yet pressed any charges against the market owners.

Unconfirmed news reports said the migrants came from the impoverished Central Asian nation of Tajikistan.

Emergency workers described the living conditions of the workers as "frightening".

Poor living conditions

The workers "lived in a metal annex that was equipped with a space heater", an unnamed law enforcement official told the Interfax news agency.

"They slept in frighteningly tight conditions, on hard bunk cots that were then stacked on top of each other," he said.

Numerous Moscow markets employ cheap labourers from the region without giving them proper housing conditions or pay.

Russia's migration service estimates that there are 700,000 Tajiks officially living in the country, a tenth of their home country's population of just under seven million.

Seven migrants were killed in January 2009 when a fire swept through an underground Moscow garage they were building.

Another seven died in May 2011 when a fire engulfed an old abandoned building in central Moscow.

The presence of Central Asian nationals and workers from the predominantly Muslim Caucasus region has also stirred racial tensions in the Russian capital and resulted in repeated deadly attacks.


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