MOSCOW - Russian rescue workers on Thursday combed through the incinerated rubble of a shopping mall for the bodies of 25 people still missing a day after a fire ripped through the centre, leaving five dead, local officials said.
The emergency situations ministry said it had abandoned hope of finding any survivors after the three-storey building was destroyed in the blaze in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan 800 km (500 miles) east of Moscow.
"The roof has collapsed, people have been trapped there but no survivors," Igor Panshin, director of the emergency situations ministry in the Volga region, told TASS news agency.
He said up to 25 more bodies were likely buried in the rubble.
Those who are missing "are employees who have not contacted their relatives yet," he said.
Some 500 police officers and riot police had been deployed to seal off the building on Wednesday afternoon as panicked shopowners pushed past a security cordon into the burning centre in a bid to save their merchandise. Television footage showed towering plumes of black smoke rising from the burning building.
TASS quoted a police source as saying five people had died and 55 were injured. A total of 650 shoppers were rescued from the fire that razed a surface of 4,000 square metres (43,000 square feet).
Tatarstan prosecutors released a statement calling for the arrest of the head of a company that rented the premises for failing to properly evacuate people, and handed the case to the Investigative Committee which probes serious crimes.