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Investigators into Russian mall fire: Exits were blocked

28 March 2018

A shopping centre fire in a Siberian city has killed 37 people and 27 are considered missing, the Russian government said.

Citing local authorities, the Russian news agency Tass said 40 of those either dead or missing were children.

At least 64 people, including nine children, have been killed in a fire at a busy shopping centre in Russian Federation, according to state media.

Investigators and witnesses said emergency exits were locked shut and alarm systems were not working at the Winter Cherry shopping centre in the Siberian city of Kemerovo.

The committee said about 120 people had been evacuated from the 1,500-square-meter shopping center, which is called Zimnyaya Vishnya (Winter Cherry) and also includes an entertainment complex, a petting zoo, and several restaurants.

Russia's Investigative Committee has launched a criminal investigation into the case, having reportedly arrested five suspects, including a private security company (PSC) employee who has switched off an alarm system in the mall.

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Earlier it was reported that 44 people were injured.

Video on social media showed people jumping from windows to escape.

Meanwhile, the head of the city's fire department Sergei Yakovlev said that the blaze had spread via flammable thermal insulation that complicated the process of extinguishing the inferno, reports Sputnik news.

While the fire has been brought under control by hundreds of firefighters who attended the scene, emergency workers said some areas of the complex are hard to access due to structural damage.

Eyewitnesses also said that staff did not arrange for the evacuation at the shopping mall, which was converted from a former confectionery factory in 2013. Kemerovo residents said the mall was packed with children and their parents.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

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"Forensic experts have arrived from Moscow, work on DNA tests has started", she said.

According to local media, children were among those killed in the fire.

The incident, which has cut short lives of so many people, including children, has deeply shocked the country and caused a huge global reaction, with world leaders conveying condolences to the families and friends of those who have died.

A three-day period of mourning was declared in the region.

Some were quick to blame lax regulations on Russia's fire safety inspection authorities, who have been accused of taking bribes to turn a blind eye to breaches.

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Investigators into Russian mall fire: Exits were blocked