MOSCOW, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Nine Russian circus bears died of smoke inhalation during a tour in Turkey, the head of the Russian state circus company Rosgostsirk said Thursday.
The bears died when smoke filled a hangar where they were being kept, RIA Novosti reported.
"Our workers, who take care of the animals day and night, tried to rescue the bears, to take them out of the smoke-filled room, but it was too late. They had already inhaled too much smoke, and unlike humans, they are sensitive to it. Only one bear survived," Rosgostsirk head Alexander Kalmykov said.
"This tragedy is to be blamed fully on the Turkish side, which, of course, will compensate for the financial damage. But it's not about material losses, it's mostly moral damage -- nine innocent souls have died, this is what is really terrible."
Officials said an electrical short circuit may have caused the smoke.