Film fest staff, guests forced to flee from fire


VLADIVOSTOK, Russia -- The top manager of Russia's Pacific Meridian film festival, members of staff and international guests were among scores of people forced to flee a high rise hotel fire the early hours of Sunday morning.

Alexander Doluda, executive director of the festival, which focuses on films from Asia-Pacific countries, was asleep in his sixth floor room at the sea front Vladivostok Hotel when he awoke to gagging fumes from a blaze just a few doors away.

Clasping a towel soaked in water he made his way with other scared guests through the thick smoke and fumes down a stairwell to the hotel's ground floor as the fire took hold.

"There was a lot of thick, black acrid smoke and it was pitch black on the sixth floor as the electricity had gone out," Doluda told The Hollywood Reporter.

Evgenia Dudina, head of the festival's visa and accommodation service, who was staying in a room adjacent to the blaze, said the initial confusion was ameliorated by a swift and orderly evacuation.

"It was pretty scary. I could see sheets of flame shooting past my window," she said.

Doluda, Dudina and others from the festival management team -- all of whom were staying on the sixth floor -- checked with hotel staff to ensure that none of the festival's international guests had been harmed in the fire before organizing alternative accommodation at the nearby Versailles Hotel.

A number of guests had remained in Vladivostok after the festival's closing ceremony Friday as they awaited long haul flights that included New York, Sydney and Seoul on Monday.

No one was hurt in the fire, believed to have been caused by an electrical fault, but around a hundred hotel guests, including a large group of Chinese visitors unconnected with the film festival, were kept waiting for more than an hour outside as crews from three fire tenders tackled the blaze at the 11 story, 415 room two star hotel managed by Russia's state hospitality company, Intourist.

Those guests who elected to remain at the hotel, which overlooks Vladivostok's famous Amur Bay, were allowed back in after the "all clear" was sounded at about 2 a.m. only to be awoken and evacuated briefly again after a second fire -- in an electrical wiring circuit board in a second floor stairwell -- caused a fresh alarm.

Guests were re-admitted to the hotel within 15 minutes on the second occasion as hotel staff began an overnight clean up operation that was continuing Sunday.