Children among 64 dead in Russia shopping center fire

Kemerovo fire

YOUTUBE•TWITTERFour children are reported to have died after the fire in Kemerovo Russia

Russian investigators looking into a fire that killed at least 64 people, including children, at a busy shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo yesterday said a security guard had turned off the fire alarm system and that exits had been illegally blocked.

The Interfax news agency cited an unnamed local official source as saying it was probably caused by a short circuit, but other accounts said the cause could have been arson or an accident. It was not immediately clear how many other children had died in the blaze, but the shopping centre was full of families enjoying the first weekend of the Easter school holidays. According to RIA Novosti, the next day the fire inside the building blazed up again. The boy's parents and younger brother died in the fire, Skvortsova said. At least 10 were hospitalized, and about 200 animals in a mall petting zoo died, officials said.

The mall is located in the city of Kemerovo, a coal-mining center in Siberia. "The fire exits were blocked", Ms Svetlana Petrenko, a spokesman for the committee, said in a statement.

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

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However, Rossiya 24 TV, a national broadcaster, said an electrical fault was the most likely cause - as in most previous deadly fires in Russian Federation.

People were gathering at the scene Monday morning to lay flowers and toys, Sputnik reported. "There were a lot of children, children without parents", said witness Klepova.

Alexander Lillevyali lost three daughters - 11-year-old twins and a 5-year-old - who were in a cinema hall on the top floor watching a cartoon. "My daughter was constantly calling and calling me. I could only shout down the phone that she should try and get out of the cinema but I couldn't do anything - there were flames in front of me".

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres wished speedy recovery to the wounded and extended his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and government of Russian Federation. As a result, many companies prefer to pay bribes instead of complying with outdated and excessive regulations, including fire safety rules.

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