A Russian Orthodox priest conducts a requiem for the victims of a fire in a multi-story shopping center in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, about 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, Monday, March 26, 2018. Russia’s top investigative body says over 50 people are confirmed dead in a fire at a shopping mall in Siberia. The fire at the four-story Winter Cherry mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo was extinguished by Monday morning after burning through the night. (AP Photo)

Russian shopping mall fire kills 64; no alarms reported

The fire at the four-story Winter Cherry mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo was extinguished by Monday morning after burning through the night.

With the fire alarms silent and staff reportedly nowhere to be seen, a fire at a shopping mall packed with children and their parents on the first weekend of the school recess killed 64 people in Russia’s Siberia.

The fire at the Winter Cherry mall in Kemerovo, a city about 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles) east of Moscow, was extinguished by Monday morning after burning through the night. Firefighters were still recovering bodies as parts of the buildings were still smouldering. Some of the dead were found inside a cinema, which one witness said had been locked shut.

Investigators said Monday that emergency exits were blocked and a security guard turned off the public announcement system when he received a call about the blaze.

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.

Sixty-four deaths were confirmed after the firefighters finished combing through the four floors of the mall, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov told a televised briefing. Six of the bodies have not yet been recovered. Puchkov would not immediately say how many of the victims were children as only 17 people have been identified.

Twelve people have been hospitalized. Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova, who visited the Keremovo hospital where the victims were receiving treatment, said on Russian state television that the patient in the gravest condition is an 11-year-old boy who jumped out of a window from the fourth floor. The boy’s parents and younger sister died in the fire, Skvortsova said.

Some 200 animals are also believed to have died in the mall’s petting zoo. The zoo’s manager told the Tass news agency that the animals included rabbits, turtles, pigs, goats and rodents.

Russia’s top investigative body said Monday afternoon that they are searching for a security officer who appears to have turned off the PA system when he received a call about the blaze.

Four people have been detained in connection with the deadly, fire including one of the mall’s tenants. The investigators did not give the cause of the fire but said they have obtained evidence proving “flagrant violations” that could have contributed to the heavy loss of life, including the fact that the fire escapes were blocked.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday it was too early to draw conclusions about whether local officials failed in Kemerovo.

Related: US expels 60 Russian diplomats, shudders Seattle consulate

Witness testimony indicated that the fire alarm did not go off and that staff did not arrange for the evacuation at the shopping mall, which was converted from a former confectionery factory in 2013.

Winter Cherry was one of Kemerovo’s most popular entertainment centres for children, with its own indoor skating rink, petting zoo and trampolines. Kemerovo residents said the mall was packed with children and their parents.

The Ekho Mosvky radio station on Monday quoted witnesses who said the fire alarm did not go off and that the mall’s staff did not organize the evacuation.

Anna Zarechneva who was on the top floor where the fire started, watching a movie with her husband and son, said they only found out about the fire when a man ran into the theatre shouting.

“We didn’t hear the fire alarm, they even didn’t turn on the light during the show,” she said. “That movie could have been the last for us, I’ve only just realized that.”

Alexander Lillevyali lost three daughters, 11-year-old twins and a 5-year-old, who were in a cinema hall on the top floor watching a cartoon.

Lillevyali told the Meduza news website that one of his daughters called him, saying that they could smell the smoke but could not get out because the door was locked.

“I was shouting into the phone, telling her to get out but there was nothing I could do — the fire was in front of me,” he said.

The Prosecutor General’s Office on Monday ordered all shopping malls in Russia to be checked for fire safety features.

Russian companies routinely complain about excessive checks from various government agencies, which often abuse elaborate rules and regulations to pressure businesses. As a result, many companies prefer to pay bribes instead of complying with outdated and excessive regulations, including fire safety rules.

Related: 6 killed, 74 injured in massive London high-rise blaze

Related: Death and destruction, hope and heroism in California fires

___

Nataliya Vasilyeva, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Parents grieving teen’s overdose death say it started with opioid prescription

Elliot Eurchuk, 16, died at his Oak Bay home Friday, after taking street drugs

Ready for day two at the Home Expo

One exhibitor, Atlas Junk Removal, uses their trucks for a good cause

UVic team revved up for international competition

Students geared up for Formula Hybrid April 30 to May 3 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

UPDATE: Victoria hosts first National Cannabis Conference

Vendors, shoppers and cannabis-curious folk head to the Victoria Conference Centre

Lack of security: why Vancouver Island food production is on the decline

Big Read: agriculture a big, expensive commitment as advocates push to make us more food secure

VIDEO: Moose found licking salt off B.C. man’s pickup truck

Tab Baker was in his garage in Prince George when the small moose gave his truck a clean

Spring Home Show this weekend in Colwood

West Shore Parks and Recreation will be transformed to showcase everything home related

Saanich mayor recommends fall referendum on future amalgamation talks

A Saanich councillor applauds the possibility of a referedum on whether Saanich… Continue reading

Austin Powers ‘Mini-Me’, Verne Troyer, dies at 49

Facebook page confirmed his death Saturday afternoon

Alberta man dead after snowmobile collision on B.C. mountain

The incident occurred on Boulder Mountain Friday morning

16 of 20 fastest improving B.C. schools are public: Fraser Institute

Independent elementary schools remain at top of the chart in think tank’s annual report card

Dinosaurs taking centre stage at National Geographic event

NatGeo Live series finale May 2 at the Royal features renowned paleontologist

UPDATED: 1 person dead after highway crash in Nanoose Bay

Accident happened just before 4 p.m. near Hillview Road

NAFTA: Talks continue through weekend in scramble to get a deal

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called negotiations ‘perpetual’

Most Read