Fire at Czech asylum for mentally ill kills 8 patients

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — A fire swept through a Czech asylum for the mentally ill on Sunday, killing eight male patients, officials said.

Prokop Volenik, spokesman for the regional rescue service, said the fire in the northwestern town of Vejprty broke out early Sunday before 5 a.m. (0400 GMT). The town is on the border with Germany.

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Those killed were all patients, most of them by smoke inhalation, according to Vejprty Mayor Jitka Gadunova. In addition to the deaths, Volenik said 30 others were injured by the blaze and transported to nearby hospitals. One of them was in critical condition.

There were 35 patients and three staff members at the home at the time of the fire, officials said.

Firefighter spokesman Michal Zavoral said the blaze was contained and the cause was being investigated. German rescuers came to help their Czech colleagues, who were not able to use rescue helicopters due to bad weather.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis visited the site and offered his condolences to the families of those who died.

"It's a huge tragedy," Babis said. "I'm here to find out how the government can help and what to do to prevent such a tragedy in the future."

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