A total of 64 people, some of them children, perished in a fire that ravaged a busy shopping mall in an industrial city in Siberia as rescue teams struggled through piles of charred rubble to recover bodies.
Russian television showed images of thick, black smoke pouring out of the Winter Cherry shopping center in the city of Kemerovo. The mall also houses a sauna, bowling alley, and multiplex cinema and was packed with people on Sunday afternoon.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said the roof collapsed in two theaters in the cinema during the blaze, which erupted at around 4 p.m. (0900 GMT). Witnesses told Russian television that some did not hear alarms or did not take them seriously and that the fire took hold very quickly, leaving many children separated from their parents.
“The alarm system didn’t work; people ran out screaming and in panic,” said a teenager, Milena, who had visited the mall with her 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 estimate of 56. (AFP)