Russian Federation fire: Kemerovo shopping centre blaze kills children

Hugh Fox
March 27, 2018

Images on Russian television showed thick black smoke pouring out of the Winter Cherry shopping centre in the city of Kemerovo, which also houses a sauna, a bowling alley and a multiplex cinema and was packed with people on Sunday afternoon.

In a tweet, the Indian Embassy in Moscow said that "it expresses its deepest condolences to the families and friends of victims of Kemerovo tragedy". "No amount of corrupt money can make up for the lives of our children".

"The only way that he could have overlooked the blatant safety issues, I think, is in one scenario: his eyes were clouded by money", he wrote in a social media post.

Investigators found that a cigarette butt dropped by a storeroom keeper caused the blaze at the Zhongbai Commercial Plaza and that fire escapes were blocked and windows barred.

About 40 people were treated at the site, and at least 10 others were hospitalized, according to Russia's Ministry of Health.

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Several witnesses said the doors of one of the shopping centre's cinemas, where children were watching cartoon films, were locked.

"She told me that everything was on fire, that all the doors were blocked", Yevgenia said, struggling to overcome her tears.

Four people have been detained for questioning, including a tenant from the area in the shopping center where the fire is believed to have begun, as well as the head of the mall's management company.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, but early suspicions focused on a possible electrical fault.

Kemerovo is almost 2,000 miles east of Moscow.

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Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the country's equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told the TASS news agency that 16 people remained missing on Monday. The patient in the most severe condition is a 11-year-old child who jumped out a fourth floor [window] during the fire and got a heavy injury... However, the Ghost Ship was an old warehouse that flew under the radar as an entertainment venue; Winter Cherry is a massive retail operation from which the city presumably draws considerable revenue.

Russia's poor fire-prevention systems have often been criticized, as they have led to major fires in commercial facilities and the arrests of building managers in the past.

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.

"The roof collapsed in two theatres in the cinema", the Investigative Committee said.

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