NEWS
26/03/2018 08:47 BST | Updated 26/03/2018 12:48 BST

Russia Fire: 41 Children Feared Dead In Shopping Mall Blaze

A petting zoo and bowling alley were engulfed in the fire.

Danil Aikin via Getty Images
41 children are unaccounted for 
  • Fire exits blocked 
  • ‘Fire alarms didn’t go off’ - reports
  • 64 dead, 11 in hospital, 10 missing

At least 64 people have died after a fire in a shopping mall – with as many as 41 children feared to be among the victims.

The blaze broke out in a complex in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, 1,900 miles east of Moscow. 

On Monday afternoon, Russia’s investigative committee said a security guard at the mall had switched off the fire warning system and that fire exits from the building were blocked. 

The “Winter Cherry” shopping centre, which opened in 2013, also included a petting zoo, a children’s centre and a bowling alley. It was a former cake factory, with few windows or doors. 

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.

Videos posted on social media on Sunday showed people jumping from windows to escape the flames. Eleven people are being treated in hospital, including an 11-year-old boy who was in a serious condition. 

Andrei Mamchenkov, deputy head of Russia’s National Crisis Management Centre, told the BBC that the bodies of nine children had so far been recovered. 

Anna Kuznetsova, Russia’s children’s rights commissioner, said the fire had been caused by incompetence and warned there were many similar shopping centers. 

“Other regions, the bosses of other malls must right now, without waiting for (routine) checks, ask themselves: Have we done everything we can to ensure something like this doesn’t happen here,” Kuznetsova said in a statement.

Kirill Kukhmar via Getty Images
An aerial view of the complex, a former cake factory with few windows or doors 

Witnesses were quoted by Russian media as saying that the fire alarm had failed to go off, and that many people had found themselves trapped because exit doors were locked.

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.

Russian emergency services said the fire had been extinguished by Sunday night, but that rescuers were struggling to reach the upper floors because the roof of the building had collapsed.

Ten people are 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.

Danil Aikin via Getty Images
The fire is one of the deadliest in Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union  

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. Russia’s Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, said it was attempting to question the mall’s principal owner.

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.