The death toll of the deadly blaze in Russia’s Kemerovo shopping mall has risen to 64 people, according to Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puckov. “64 is the final number,” he said. The bodies of six victims have yet to be located. Earlier reports suggested that 11 children were among the dead.
“We continue search and rescue efforts, there are people missing, we registered them,” Puchkov added. Rescuers are working in dangerous conditions, as the building’s structure is no longer secure.
Amid conflicting reports, some have described the source of the fire as the children’s playground, suggesting that the trampoline there caught fire after a child allegedly misused a lighter. Another version suggests that electrical wiring at the playground had short-circuited.
Reports from witnesses have described panic as people realized there was a fire spreading, with many saying on social media that there were no fire alarms or loudspeaker warnings, and that people had to find their own way through the top floor of the mall, which was already filled with smoke. Several hundred people, including many children, were in the mall at the time.
Tragically, some reportedly had left their children unattended in one of the mall’s cinema halls or at the playground. The fire, which broke out on Sunday afternoon, was finally contained some 12 hours later, after engulfing some 1,600 square meters. The building sustained severe damage, its roof and floors partially collapsing.
Fears are growing that almost an entire class of primary school children may have perished in the blaze. Eight kids from a school outside Kemerovo were visiting the city on an excursion with a teacher, who led them to watch a cartoon show at the shopping mall. Russian media reports suggest that she chose to have a stroll through the mall and left the children at the cinema, from which they apparently couldn’t find their way out. -RT News