Russia fire: Scores of children feared among at least 64 killed in Kemerovo, Siberia

Russia fire: Scores of children feared among at least 64 killed in Kemerovo, SiberiaScores of children are feared to be among at least 64 people killed in a fire that swept through a busy Russian shopping centre. As many as 41 children could be among the victims of the blaze at the Winter Cherry shopping centre, in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, on Sunday. Around a dozen people are still believed to be missing. The blaze, one of the deadliest in Russia since the end of the Soviet Union, swept through the upper floors of the complex that included a cinema and children's play area. Video footage showed a group of people in a smoke-filled staircase trying to smash a fire exit door, which was jammed. Others were seen jumping from windows to escape the flames. Local media quoted two witnesses who said the fire alarm did not go off. A view of the smoldering shopping centre from above on Monday morning Credit:  Kirill Kukhmar/ TASS Eyewitnesses quoted by Russian media described panic as the flames spread rapidly through the building and fire safety systems failed. “The flames engulfed everything in a moment. It was a question of seconds,” said one mother whose son was in a play area in the shopping centre when the fire started, according to local news website Gazeta Kemerovo. “At that moment, my child was hanging one and a half metres up in the air on a zip wire and the man who had tied him on had disappeared… but a girl appeared from somewhere and got him down. Without her he would have died.” The Winter Cherry shopping centre, in Kemerovo, engulfed in flames on Sunday Credit: Danil Aikin/TASS via Getty One woman told the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper that she got a phone call from her 12-year old niece who was trapped in a burning cinema on the top floor of the building. "Tell my mother that I love her," she  said. Video shot by witnesses on their mobile phones showed people screaming and running amid a chaotic evacuation. One piece of footage aired on Russian television showed a man in a burning room desperately trying to break down a door.  Video showed people jumping from windows to escape the flames Credit: Danil Aikin /TASS/Getty “There was panic and chaos, people were running everywhere. It became very dark when the lights went off, the escalators were not working, the lifts were not working, people were running and falling over,” Danila Plyut told Russia’s Channel One.  There were multiple reports from eyewitnesses that no fire alarms had been heard and that sprinkler systems were not activated. One parent of a child who was caught up in the blaze told Russian television that security guards had refused to allow her daughter to leave the burning building via a stairwell.  Footage from the still smouldering wreckage of the shopping centre on Monday where hundreds of firefighters were still working showed that large sections of the roof had collapsed during the fire.  Flames lick a window frame at the shopping centre, where some witnesses said the fire alarm did not go off Credit: Danil Aikin/TASS/Barcroft Images Russian state investigators said four people had been detained over the fire, including the owners and leasers of outlets inside the shopping mall. It took emergency services hours to bring the fire under control. After it was extinguished, rescuers were struggling to reach the upper floors because the roof had collapsed. Images on Russian television showed thick black smoke pouring out of the building, which also houses a sauna, a bowling alley and a multiplex cinema. The shopping centre was converted from a former confectionery factory in 2013 and was popular with local residents for its facilities for children, which included a petting zoo. Eight children from the same class feared dead Details have emerged this morning about some of the children killed in an inferno and the efforts of their parents to save them. Alexander Lillyevyali told Russian news website Meduza that his three daughters, two aged 11 and one aged 5, were killed in the blaze. The girls were watching a film in a cinema on the fourth floor of the shopping centre, he said, when he got a call from one who told him there was a fire in the cinema but neither she nor her sisters could get out because the cinema doors were locked. Lillyevyali, who was waiting on the first floor, said he rushed to try and reach them. “When I got to the fourth floor, I broke a window so there would be an upwards draft. I started to crawl but I realised I had no strength, I had inhaled so much smoke that I was on the verge of fainting. My daughter was calling and calling me. I could only shout down the phone that she try to get out of the cinema but I couldn’t do anything – there were flames in front of me,” he said. Maya Yerokhina, a young girl who was reportedly on the list of people missing in the blaze, updated her status on her profile page on Russian social networking site Vkontakte on Sunday to read: “This is the end.” The aunt of 12-year old Viktoriya Pochankina told Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper she got a phone call from her niece who was trapped by the blaze. "Tell my mother that I love her," she said down the phone. Pochankina was reportedly one of a group of eight children from Treschevsky village, 30 miles from Kemerovo, who had been taken to the cinema by their teacher as an end-of-term treat. Roof collapsed in two cinemas at shopping centre Preliminary findings of an inquiry said the fire started in one of the cinema halls and destroyed more than 10,700 square feet (1,000 square metres) of the centre, news agencies reported. "The roof collapsed in two theatres in the cinema," the Investigative Committee said. Hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze for hours Credit: Danil Aikin/TASS via Getty Around 120 people had been evacuated from the burning centre, rescuers said. "This shopping centre on several floors was packed with people mid-day Sunday," said Alexandre Eremeyev, an official with the local Russian emergency services ministry. Burnt debris outside the shopping centre  Credit: Maxim Grigoryev /TASS/Getty He added: "No one knows exactly how many people there were inside when the fire broke out. "Where to look for people? How many are there? That has greatly complicated the work of the firefighters." Hundreds of firefighters spend hours tackling blaze Around 300 firefighters and rescue personnel rushed to the scene and tackled the blaze for more than 17 hours. Russia's minister of emergency services, Vladimir Putchkov has gone to Kemerovo, RIA Novosti said. Hundreds of firefighters were scrambled to the scene Credit: Danil Aikin /TASS/Getty Deadliest blaze in Russia for almost a decade The Winter Cherry shopping centre fire was the deadliest blaze in Russia in recent years: A shopping centre fire in March 2015 killed 11 people in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan some 500 miles east of Moscow. In April 2013, a fire ravaged a psychiatric hospital in the Moscow region, killing 38 people, most of them patients who were engulfed by flames as they slept behind barred windows. Just months later, in September 2013, 37 people were killed when a fire swept through a psychiatric hospital in the village of Luka in northwest Russia. In 2009, 156 were killed in a nightclub fire in the city of Perm, 745 miles east of Moscow in one of the deadliest accidents in Russia's modern history.



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