17 die in fire at Ukraine home for elderly

Rescuers inspect the debris of a residential house after a fire broke out, in the village of Litochky, Ukraine, on May 29, 2016.
Rescuers inspect the debris of a residential house after a fire broke out, in the village of Litochky, Ukraine, on May 29, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

KIEV (AFP) - Seventeen people died when a makeshift home for elderly people outside the Ukrainian capital Kiev caught fire in the early hours of Sunday (May 29), the emergencies service said.

"The bodies of 17 people have been found at the site of the fire," the head of Ukraine's state emergencies service, Mykola Chechetkin, said in comments released by his office.

The fire tore through the temporary two-storey shelter for the elderly which was located in the village of Litochky, located some 50km north of Kiev.

Citing preliminary information, the service said that 35 people were at the shelter when the fire broke out in the early hours of Sunday.

Eighteen people have been rescued and five of them have been hospitalised, said the service, adding that the fire had been extinguished by Sunday morning.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been notified of the blaze, the government said in a statement, adding that Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman had tasked officials with creating a special commission to look into the fire.

Groysman expressed condolences to the families of those who had perished in the "terrible tragedy," the government said in a statement.

In post-Soviet countries like Ukraine and Russia outdated infrastructure is still in widespread use and managers often take a lax approach to fire safety.

Such fires often claim the lives of some of the most vulnerable people such as the elderly or those with mental illness.

Scores of people also die in house fires each year.