A deadly mall fire has claimed the lives of at least 64 people with dozens more injured and missing.
The fire started in the children’s play area at a shopping mall in the Russian city of Kemerovo, Siberia. While many managed to escape, dozens more were trapped as the fire spread quickly.
Monday afternoon, Russian President Vladimir Putin said a number of deaths were caused by criminal negligence, pointing out a security guard had turned off a public address system that could have warned shoppers. In addition, a number of exits were illegally blocked, trapping many inside.
The fire broke out on Sunday afternoon. According to preliminary reports, it started in a trampoline room at the mall’s playground for children. Firefighters managed to get some 120 people out, the regional emergencies ministry said. 30 people were taken to local hospitals.
Early reports suggest that several children have died in the blaze. The Russian Investigative Committee confirmed on its Telegram channel that three women, one man and a child have died in the incident. Firefighters found two more bodies in the burnt-out mall, raising the death toll to seven, according to an emergency services official, cited by TASS.
Officials say 69 people, including 40 children that were in the play area, are still missing, even as night falls in the area.
As of 9pm (local time), the firefighters were still struggling to extinguish the blaze in the left wing of the building, where cinemas are located. The other parts of the mall remained filled with dense smoke and the emergency crews couldn’t enter these to search through rubble, according to the spokesman for the local emergency services. A special task force, which includes rescue workers and psychologists, is expected at Kemerovo from the city of Krasnoyarsk.
The fire was localized to some 1,600 square meters by midnight. Some 1,200 meters of roofing and floors in the building have collapsed, an emergency services operative told RIA Novosti.
As of 1am local time, the firefighters had checked the ground and first floors of the building, while the second floor was still being explored, the spokesman for the emergency services told reporters. The third floor of the building, where the blaze had supposedly started, was still off-limits for the rescuers, due to extremely high temperatures.
Here is video from RUPTLY of the mall fire.