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Police officers guard the entrance to the 911 nightclub in Moscow after a deadly fire inside. ((Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press))

Ten people died in a Moscow nightclub fire early Sunday morning, a spokesman forRussia's Emergency Situations Ministry said.

The blaze broke out around 3:10 a.m., localtime, in the "911" club, on the first floor of Lenkom theatre, saidYevgeny Bobylev.

Russian news agencies quoted witnesses as sayingthe club’s bartender was putting on a "fire show" and accidentally poured burning alcohol on his clothes.

A nearby canister of flammable liquid also ignited and soon half of the club was on fire.

Bobylev said all the deaths were due to suffocation. About 150 people were evacuated, including four who had to be taken to hospital.

Fire deaths have become a major problem in Russia. Last year, more than 17,000 people died in fires, a rate many times higher than most Western countries.

Last week, a fire killed 63 residents of a nursing home in a southern Russian town, where the local fire department had been disbanded. Fire crews took about an hour to get to the scene.

In December, 45 women died in a fire at a Moscow drug treatment facility where windows were barred. A fire at a Siberian mental hospital the next day killed nine patients.