Investigators believe that “serious violations” were committed at the Russian shopping centre where a fire killed at least 64 people yesterday.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said that a security guard switched off the alarm system at the complex in Kemerovo and the fire exits were blocked. Criminal investigations are continuing.
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Dozens of children are thought to be among the victims and people are still missing.
Dmitry Medvedev (pictured), the Russian prime minister, has apparently dispatched his health minister Skvortsova to Kemerovo, which is a coal-mining city in Siberia, around 3,600km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow.
The fire tore through the shopping centre when it was full of Sunday afternoon visitors. It is not yet clear what started the fire but it seems to have started on the top floor of the building, where there was a cinema, children’s play area and an ice skating rink.
Many victims were at the cinema when the fire began. Video posted of the scene show people jumping from windows in an attempt to escape.
Witnesses have said that fire alarms in the complex failed to go off and that the rush of people trying to escape turned into a stampede.
The fire was eventually extinguished after 17 hours, having spread across some 1,600 square meters. Around 660 emergency personnel attended the scene, rescuing 20 people and evacuating 100 others, according to TASS, a Russian news agency.
Rescue efforts will continue, though sources have told the Russia media that there is virtually no chance of finding survivors amongst the rubble.
The prime minister’s spokeswoman said that Skvortsova would organise qualified assistance to the injured and oversee their transportation to hospitals in other cities if necessary.
Today in Kemerovo people have gathered outside the shopping centre with flowers and toys to commemorate the dead.
Criminal investigations into the fire have been launched, including over negligence and fire safety violations by the owners of the complex.
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Anna Kuznetsova, the Children’s Rights Commissioner for President Vladimir Putin, said in a TV interview that the fire was due to ignoring security norms.
Negligence is the cause. All norms are written. But the way we treat these [security] norms is the catastrophic cause of the tragedy we have witnessed today.