At least 48 dead in massive Russian mall fire, report says

At least 48 dead in massive Russian mall fire, report says

People lay flowers for the victims of a fire at a multi-story shopping centre in Kemerovo, about 3,000 kilometers east of Moscow.

The emergency services reportedly deployed some 15 fire teams, while the national center for crisis management announced that over 660 people were engaged in emergency response activities.

Meanwhile, the Russian Investigative Committee has opened several criminal cases into the incident, including into the deaths through negligence and fire safety violations.

Four people had been detained over the fire, including the owners and lessees of outlets inside the mall.

Igor Yurgens, president of the Russian Union of Insurance Companies, told state television that individual shops were insured but the mall does not appear to have an insurance policy.

"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. Among them are blocked fire exits in the shopping center which prevented people from leaving the fire trap and a switched-off alarm system.

"My daughter kept calling me. Now we are solving questions related to debts, loans, what problems they are claiming", Tuleev said during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

Russia's Investigative Committee said the roof collapsed in two theatres of the cinema in the blaze, which erupted at around 4 PM local time yesterday.

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

Another witness told Rossia 24 news channel: "There was no announcement".

"People started running around, it was just bad".

"The smell of plastic was very strong and the smoke was acrid on the top floor, you just could not go up there by then".

"There were children and adults, they ran out in T-shirts. we tried to help bring out people", said teenager Danila Plyut.

Residents said the shopping centre was packed with children and their parents.

Emergency services minister Vladimir Puchkov said on Russian television: "We have recorded that unfortunately as a result of the accident 64 people died", up from a previous toll of 56.

She said an 18-year-old boy was also seriously injured from jumping from the top floor, while nine other people were suffering from smoke inhalation.

As yet, what caused the deadly blaze remains undetermined. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel both issued condolences to Russian Federation, with Merkel quoted as telling Putin: "We grieve with you".

Kemerovo Regional Governor Aman Tuleyev has signed an order declaring mourning in the region from Tuesday to Thursday.

The prosecutor general's office said that all of the country's shopping malls with entertainment areas will be checked for fire safety.



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