Death toll rises to 53 in Russia shopping mall fire: Agencies

Death toll rises to 53 in Russia shopping mall fire: Agencies
The shopping centre in Kemerovo, in western Siberia, also houses a sauna, a bowling alley and a multiplex cinema and was packed with people on Sunday afternoon.

Moscow - At least 53 bodies have been recovered from a fire that swept through a busy shopping centre in an industrial city in Siberia, Russian news agencies said Monday.

Many people are also still missing from the blaze that broke out Sunday in the city of Kemerovo, the agencies quoted emergency services as saying. A previous toll put the number of dead at 37 with nearly 70 missing, including 40 children.

Investigators had initially reported five people dead including a child and another 30 people injured and taken to hospital.

As the new death toll was announced, a source in the local rescue services said 69 people including 40 children were reported missing, the RIA Novosti agency reported, while the Investigative Committee said it was "verifying information that 35 people could be missing".

The preliminary findings of the inquiry said the fire started around 1100 GMT 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.

Around 120 people had been evacuated from the burning centre, rescuers said.

At least 64 people killed in Russia shopping mall fire

  • Open gallery

    A fire in a shopping mall killed at least 64 people

  • Open gallery

    Investigators looking into a fire, one of the deadliest in Russia since the break-up of the Soviet Union, said fire exits at the mall had been illegally blocked and the fire alarm system had not functioned properly.

  • Open gallery

    The fire swept through the upper floors of the Winter Cherry shopping centre in the city of Kemerovo, where a cinema complex and children's play area were located, on Sunday afternoon.

  • Open gallery

    Dozens of children were feared to be among the dead in the tragedy in Kemerovo, a coal-producing region about 3,600 km east of Moscow.

  • Open gallery

    As well as grief, the fire has stirred public anger about apparent failures in fire safety standards at the mall.

  • Open gallery

    The head of Russia's Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, said the fire alarm system in the mall had been out of order since March 19

  • Open gallery

    and a security guard had not turned on the public address system to warn people to evacuate the building.

  • Open gallery

    The committee said earlier it was trying to bring in the mall's owner for questioning.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    Russian President Vladimir Putin hit out at "criminal negligence" which he said was to blame for the high death toll.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

"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.

"Where to look for people? How many are there? That has greatly complicated the work of the firefighters," he said, adding that the thick smoke was also hindering their task.

Some 300 firefighters and rescue personnel were rushed to the scene and the fire was brought under control around 1730 GMT, local emergency officials said.

Russia's minister of emergency services, Vladimir Putchkov has gone to Kemerovo, RIA Novosti said.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz offered his sympathies.

"My condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the terrible fire in the shopping mall in Kemerovo. It is tragic that so many children are dead or missing. I wish a speedy recovery to those injured," he said on Twitter.

It was the deadliest blaze in Russia in recent years.

A shopping mall fire in March 2015 killed 11 people in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan some 800 kilometres (500 miles) east of Moscow.

In April 2013, a fire ravaged a psychiatric hospital in the Moscow region, killing 38 people, most of them patients who were engulfed by flames as they slept behind barred windows.

Just months later, in September 2013, 37 people were killed when a fire swept through a psychiatric hospital in the village of Luka in northwest Russia.

In 2009, 156 were killed in a nightclub fire in the city of Perm, 1,200 kilometres east of Moscow in one of the deadliest accidents in Russia's modern history.


Purchase this article for republication.
Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.