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Eight killed in blaze at Czech home for disabled

VEJPRTY, Czech Republic (Reuters) - A fire in a home for people with disabilities killed eight people and injured 30 in northwest Czech Republic early on Sunday, fire and state officials said.

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The blaze occurred in a home where mostly men with mental and other disabilities lived, in Vejprty about 130 km (80 miles) northwest of Prague.

It was the second deadliest blaze in the country’s three-decade post-communist history. In 2010, a fire in an abandoned building often used by homeless people in Prague killed nine people. A hotel fire in the capital in 1995 killed eight.

The fire at the Vejprty home started in one room before spreading to three, Michal Zavoral, commanding officer of the region’s fire services, told state broadcaster Czech Television.

He said the eight died from smoke inhalation.

Police said the home had 35 residents. One police officer was among those injured.

Four people were seriously injured, said Vejprty Mayor Jitka Gavdunova.

“It is, for our city, a great tragedy because clients of the home... are part of our city,” she said, adding that there were fire detectors in the home but not in the area where the fire started, she said.

The cause of the fire was not yet known.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis travelled to the site and promised help with the investigation, calling the fire a “huge tragedy”.

The blaze was reported just before 5 a.m. (0400 GMT). Firefighters were on the scene within 10 minutes and were able to keep the fire from spreading.

Poor weather prevented helicopters from being able to help transport injured people. Vejprty is on the country’s northwest border with Germany and German rescue units took part in the operation, officials said.

Reporting by Jiri Skacel and Jason Hovet; Editing by Frances Kerry