Update: Dozens missing including children after fire in Siberian city of Kemerovo
Emergency vehicles gather outside a burning shopping centre in Kemerovo.
Moscow: At least 64 people were killed by a fire in a shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry said on Monday.
The fire, one of the deadliest in Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union, swept through the upper floors of the mall where a cinema complex and children’s play area were located.
Russian emergency services said the fire, which started on Sunday afternoon, had now been extinguished — but that rescuers were struggling to reach the upper floors because the roof of the building had collapsed.
More than a dozen people were still unaccounted for.
People posted appeals on social media seeking news of their relatives or friends, and authorities set up a centre in a school near the mall to deal with inquiries from people seeking missing family members.
Fire exit door jammed
Video footage from inside the mall after the fire broke out showed a group of people in a smoke-filled staircase trying to smash a fire exit door, which was jammed.
Russia’s Channel One television station reported that some people had jumped from upper windows of the mall to escape the flames.
Russian state investigators said four people had been detained over the fire, including the owners and lessees of outlets inside the shopping mall.
The Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, said it was trying to bring in the mall’s principal owner for questioning.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, elected to a new term last weekend, spoke by telephone with the governor of the Kemerovo region and with the head of the Emergencies Ministry.
The Russian president “expressed his deep condolences to the relatives and loved ones of those who died,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
The preliminary findings of the inquiry said the fire started around 11am GMT (3pm UAE) in one of the cinema halls and destroyed more than 1,000 square metres of the centre, news agencies reported.
“The roof collapsed in two theatres in the cinema,” the Investigative Committee said.
“This shopping centre on several floors was packed with people mid-day Sunday. No one knows exactly how many people there were inside when the fire broke out,” Alexandre Eremeyev, an official with the local Russian emergency services ministry, said in a statement.
The fire was brought under control around 1730 GMT, local emergency officials said, adding that some 300 firefighters and rescue personnel had been sent to the scene.
Russia’s minister of emergency services, Vladimir Putchkov has gone to Kemerovo, RIA Novosti said.