41 children among dead in Siberian mall fire


Forty-one children were killed in a fire at a shopping centre complex in Kemerovo, Russia, local media has said.

Both the RIA and Interfax news agencies reported the figure, saying that a list of victims had been made available to relatives.

It came as thousands of residents held a rally in the city, demanding a full inquiry into what happened.

People grieve at a makeshift memorial in Kemerovo
Image: People grieve at a makeshift memorial in Kemerovo

Protesters, many of them in tears, claimed authorities had been hiding the true death toll and that the number killed was higher.

One of them shouted: “Why don’t they tell us the truth?” A placard read: “How many victims are there really?”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on a visit to Kemerovo, said earlier that “criminal negligence” was behind the blaze that killed 64 people in the Siberian city.

Witnesses reported that fire alarms were silent and many doors, including those to a cinema, were locked.

The head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, told Mr Putin the doors may have been closed to stop people without a ticket from getting in.

“Most of the staff ran away and left parents and their children to their fate,” he said.

People gather to pay tribute to the victims
Image: Thousands of protesters gathered in front of government buildings

Mr Putin, who has announced that Wednesday will be a day of national mourning, laid flowers in tribute to the victims, though it is not known whether he has spoken to those affected.

His comments, aired on state television, came after investigators said a security guard had turned off the public address system and fire exits had been illegally blocked.

Mr Bastrykin told Mr Putin the mall’s fire alarm system had been out of order since 19 March. A search is under way for the security guard.

Mr Bastrykin said five people had been detained.

The Investigative Committee said on Monday there had been “serious violations” at the Winter Cherry mall, which is situated in an industrial coal-mining city 3,600km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow.

President Putin meets local people and relatives of those missing
Image: President Putin meets local people and relatives of those missing

In addition to the cinema, the complex also contained a children’s play area, an ice rink, and a petting zoo.

Parents of missing youngsters have been posting pictures in an attempt to find their loved ones.

Russian television broadcasts showed people leaping from the windows of the building which was engulfed in black smoke.

Up to 11 people are still believed to be missing. The Investigative Committee said 10 people were treated in hospital, while 44 had sought medical treatment.

President Putin meets one of the victims of the fire
Image: President Putin meets one of the victims of the fire

Among those whose fate is unknown is a 12-year-old girl, Viktoria ‘Vika’ Pochankina, who became trapped in the mall’s cinema while watching a film with classmates, according to the Siberian Times.

When her aunt Evgenia called her, Vika said: “Everything is burning, the doors are blocked. I can’t go out, I can’t breathe.”

More than 30 people have been killed in a fire at a shopping mall in Kemerovo
Image: The building is in danger of collapse

Before the call ended, Vika reportedly added: “Auntie, tell all my family I love them, tell mum that I loved her.”

Shopper Ivan told the Siberian Times he had been at an indoor ice rink with his children.

“As we rushed out of the building, I saw a teenager falling out of a window,” he said.

“‘There was no fire alarm, no automatic fire extinguishing.”

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Video: Children and parents flee shopping mall fire

The blaze erupted on the top floor of the four-storey shopping centre near the cinema complex and children’s play area on Sunday afternoon.

The building was converted into a shopping centre from a former confectionery factory in 2013.

From – SkyNews