Investigators looking into a fire that killed at least 64 people at a busy shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo said on Monday that a security guard had turned off the fire alarm system and that exits had been illegally blocked.
The fire, one of the deadliest in Russia since the break-up of the Soviet Union, swept through the upper floors of the “Winter Cherry” shopping center on Sunday afternoon where a cinema complex and children’s play area were located.
Dozens of children were feared to be among the dead.
President Vladimir Putin, re-elected last weekend, has yet to speak publicly about the tragedy, which has stirred deep anger in Kemerovo, a coal-producing region about 3,600 km (2,200 miles) east
The Kremlin published a statement, saying Putin “expressed his deep condolences to the relatives and loved ones of those
Russia’s Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, said it was trying to bring in the mall’s owner for questioning and wanted to detain a security guard who had turned off the fire alarm system after learning of the blaze.
“Serious violations (of the law) took place when the mall was being built and when it was functioning. The fire exits were blocked,” Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the committee, said in a statement.
She said investigators, who have opened a criminal investigation into the blaze, were looking into other possible violations. Four people have already been detained, including the owners and lessees of outlets inside the mall.
Emergency services said they had extinguished the fire, but later said it had reignited in places, and that rescuers were struggling to recover bodies beneath smoldering rubble.
REUTERS, 26th MARCH, 2018