Russian Federation mourns victims of deadly fire

Saul Bowman
March 29, 2018

Russia's emergency situations minister says 64 people are confirmed to have died in a fire in a shopping mall in Siberia.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in the the Siberian city of Kemerovo on Tuesday, calling for an investigation into a shopping mall fire that killed at least 64 people, including 41 children.

"Hearing about so many children who died fills you with a desire to not simply cry but to wail", the sombre-faced Putin said. Thousands also gathered in protest in the city's central square to demand that the authorities release the actual death toll from the fire.

This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Putin declared a national day of mourning and in the meeting blamed the catastrophe on "criminal negligence".

"What's happening here? This isn't war, it's not an unexpected methane explosion at a coalmine". Relatives of the victims say they have compiled a list of 85 people, majority children, who are still missing.

"Most of the staff ran away and left parents and their children to their fate", he said.

"This tragedy is made even worse by the fact that children became victims of the blaze".

He said investigators believe the blaze could have been sparked by a short circuit or an fire.

Public anger in Kemerovo was reflected in protesters' placards.

A court in Kemerovo is expected to rule later Wednesday on the arrests of one of the mall's tenants, the mall's technical director, two employees of a company maintaining the fire alarm system and a security guard who the investigators said turned off the fire alarm.

"We have been locked inside the movie theatre. You deserved a happy, joyful life", she wrote.

One of them shouted: "Why don't they tell us the truth?"

Confusion in recording the names of the dead, which included many who shared surnames, and difficulty identifying bodies may have led to the discrepancy, a spokesman for the activists told The Daily Mail.

Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia's Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, said that the fire alarm had not been operational for two weeks and that the security guard was detained.

A young man told Putin he was outraged that the doors were locked at the mall, effectively turning the premises into "gas chambers".

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