Investigators into fatal Russian mall fire say exits were blocked

Map shows the cities of Moscow and Kemerovo in Russia

Scores of children are feared to be among at least 64 people killed in a fire that swept through a busy Russian shopping centre.

The fire, one of the deadliest in Russian Federation since the break-up of the Soviet Union, swept through the upper floors of the "Winter Cherry" shopping centre on Sunday afternoon where a cinema complex and children's play area were located.

The daughter of a shop assistant who was working on the second floor said "the alarm didn't go off. she learnt about the fire from a man who ran past her - there was no help from any staff".

The roof over the burned area collapsed and at least 59 people are reported by the RBC news outlet as missing - 41 of them children.

Four people have been detained for questioning, including a tenant from the area in the shopping center where the fire is believed to have begun, as well as the head of the mall's management company. "I just shouted to her to try to and get out of the cinema but I couldn't do anything, there were already flames in front of me", he said.

The most serious case is an 11-year-old boy whose parents and siblings died in the fire, Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said.

Alexander Lillevyali told online newspaper Meduza that he and his wife Olga had lost all three of their daughters, two aged 11 and one five, in the blaze. "Fire!', and we started running out".

On Monday morning, Kemerovo residents were bringing flowers, candles and stuffed animals to a plaza outside the mall, and local hospitals reported an influx of people wanting to donate blood for the victims. Kemerovo residents said the mall was packed with children and their parents.

On Monday more than 500 firefighters were struggling to break down walls and clear rubble amid smoke-filled air and high temperatures, deploying drones.

But the president has yet to speak publicly about the tragedy, which has stirred anger in Kemerovo, a coal-producing region about 3,600 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow.

The worldwide airport of Kemerovo met Executive One, the plane of the special flight detachment Rossiya, on which President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin usually sails.

Of 64 dead bodies only 17 people have been identified.

The fire in Kemerovo is far from the first major fire disaster in Russian Federation in recent years.

Ten people have been taken to hospital.

The head of Russia's Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, said the fire alarm system in the mall had been out of order since March 19 and a security guard had not turned on the public address system to warn people to evacuate the building.

In 2009, 156 were killed in a nightclub fire in the city of Perm, 1,200 kilometres east of Moscow in one of the deadliest accidents in Russia's modern history.



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