Shopping centre fire kills at least 37 in Russian Federation

28 March, 2018, 01:27 | Author: Diane Mills
  • Siberia mall fire

India, on Monday, expressed its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the 64 victims who were killed in a major fire at a busy shopping mall packed with children and their parents in Russia's Kemerovo city.

Kemerovo - which is home to around half a million people - is located in western Siberia, around 3,600km east of Moscow.

At least 40 of those missing were children, according to local news agencies and it is believed that children are among the dead.

The Interfax news agency cited an unnamed local official source as saying it was probably caused by a short circuit, but other accounts said the cause could have been arson or an accident.

"The shopping centre is a very complex construction", he said.

The Kommersant newspaper reported that 288 firefighters arrived with 62 firetrucks to battle the blaze, which took 19 hours to extinguish and covered an area of 1,500 square meters (16,000 square feet). In the framework of the criminal case, investigators detained four people.

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An Investigative Committee statement on March 26 suggested that the effects of the fire that broke out at a shopping center in Kemerovo a day earlier could have been much milder if not for violations committed during construction of the mall and after it opened in 2013. Forty-five people were injured. Pictures showed people jumping from the top floor to escape the blaze.

However, officials said safety violations at the mall, including blocked emergency exits and a disabled fire alarm, may have added to the appalling scale of the tragedy.

"She told me that everything was on fire, that all the doors were blocked", Yevgenia said, struggling to overcome her tears. "Whole classes of children from nearby villages were there, they were locked in (the cinema)", a witness who gave his name as Konstantin told Business Radio FM.

Negligence, cost-cutting, corruption, and the thwarting of safety rules are blamed for causing or aggravating the human toll from blazes in Russian Federation, where the death rate from fires is far higher than in most Western countries.

About 12 of the missing children were in one of the mall's three movie theaters, which rescuers have so far been unable to access due to the high temperatures and the building's instability, according to Vladimir Chernov, Kemerovo's vice governor. "I shouted over the phone urging her to try to break out of the hall, but I couldn't do anything, the blaze was already confronting me", he said.

Some were quick to blame lax regulations on Russia's fire safety inspection authorities, who have been accused of taking bribes to turn a blind eye to breaches.

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