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For the second day, Winter Cherry, shopping and entertainment complex in the Russian city of Kemerovo, has been on fire. This fire became the most terrible event in the Russian Federation for the last years. The number of its victims has already exceeded fifty and continues to grow with every hour, dozens of people are missing.
Winter Cherry mall, located in the former building of the largest confectionery plant in Kemerovo, was caught on fire on March 25 at about 16:00 local time, when a great number of visitors was in.
The fire department of the city received a call about smoke on the third floor of the mall, where children's playgrounds, a skating rink, billiards, a cafe-bar, and three cinema halls are located.
Rescuers arrived at the scene and rushed to evacuate people not only from the mall but also from the nearest buildings, as there was a fear that the building could collapse and touch the neighboring facilities.
Law enforcement officers also came to the scene. They cordoned the area and blocked the entrances to the building.
Meanwhile, the fire spread to other floors of the mall.
According to the eyewitnesses, the fire alarm system did not work, the employees of the shopping center had to notify the visitors themselves.
"There was nothing: no signal, no means of firefighting, only a distraught crowd... When the fire started, my 7-year-old sister and I were watching "Pacific Rim-2." Suddenly the door of the cinema hall opened, a woman ran in, began to shout: "Fire!" At first, no one realized what was going on. Clouds of smoke poured inside the cinema hall, I grabbed my sister and we ran down the stairs, the stampede has started. We could not see anything. We were trying to get out of there for about five minutes. My hands are still trembling when I think of what could have happened to us if that random visitor of the mall did not run into the hall..." said Igor, one of the survivors.
A few hundred people were lucky: they all left the building themselves. According to them, there was no organized evacuation, many emergency exits were locked, doors had to be broken, often men ran in front of women, pushed each other, 50 people entered one elevator, etc.
The other group of the mall visitors were less fortunate: they found themselves in a fiery trap, they were cut off from the exits. Someone had to jump out of the windows or get on the roof to be rescued by the firemen. The latest evacuation exercises in the "Winter Cherry" were held a week ago.
During the first hours of the fire, four deaths were reported (three children and one woman). As sources from emergency services of the city reported, their bodies were found on the third floor of the mall in one of the cinema halls. All of them died from intoxications produced by combustion products.
At the same time, The Investigative Committee of Russia added that another 26 visitors of the mall were hospitalized. According to the latest information, the number of victims of the fire exceeded fifty people. As of 11:30, The Investigative Committee of Russia confirmed the death of 64 persons.
Most of the bodies were found in the cinema halls, on the third floor of the building, where, according to preliminary version, the fire started.
At the moment it is known that nine children have died.
About two dozen bodies were sent for examination, 15 of them have already been identified.
There is no official information about the personalities of the dead people, but the governor of the Kemerovo region Aman Tuleyev has already promised to pay RUB 1 million (USD 17,500) to each family as a compensation.
According to The Investigative Committee of Russia, since the fire started, 44 people have been taken to the city hospitals, 34 of them have already been checked out of the hospital and are being treated on an outpatient basis.
As explained by Russian Minister of Healthcare Veronika Skvortsova, the 11-year-old boy, whose family died in the fire, is in the most serious condition now.
As for other victims, most of them are placed in the toxicology departments with carbon monoxide poisoning, another young man who jumped out of the mall’s window, in moderately wounded.
Dozens of missing persons are reported. Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that initially these are 64 people, but this morning five of them were found by the law enforcers. They were unharmed, as on March 25 they were not on the scene of the event.
Local authorities note that among the missing are a group of children from Tomsk and 12 schoolchildren from Treschevsky township (Topkinsky district of the Kemerovo region).
In addition, a petting zoo was located on the second floor of the mall. There were squirrels, rabbits, meerkats, ferrets, chinchillas, raccoons, hedgehogs, coatis, foxes, goats, snakes, tortoises, owls, and other animals - almost 200 animals (25 species). Most likely, all the animals from the petting zoo have died. Zoo manager Eugen Wiedemann told reporters that he was the last who left the building, but there were no opportunities to save the animals, and later the entrance was blocked.
The fire in "Winter Cherry" mall is localized, but it has not been completely extinguished. This morning the head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Vladimir Puchkov admitted that there are "some hot spots" in the mall, where the temperature reached several hundred degrees. He ordered to completely eliminate the fire by 14:00 Moscow time. And at about 11:30 there was a message about a new fire.
Several dozens of rescuers were sent to the "Winter Cherry" mall for firefighting, more than 500 State Emergency Service employees and 124 units of equipment, including two aircraft, were brought to the fire. Firefighters demolish the building structures and blockages, remove smoke, and take the construction debris away.
The roof of the mall has collapsed – 1,5 thousand square meters. In addition, the insulation has collapsed too.
The official reason for the fire is not announced yet. Meanwhile, a lot of theories have appeared in the media. In the first hours after the fire has started, it became known that the fire most likely originated in the children's play area next to the cinema hall on the third floor.
According to another version, a short circuit of the carousel happened, and then the fire spread to the baby balls pool, and then to the foam rubber trampolines.
The third version says that the reason was the playing machine disrepair.
Before the big fire at "Winter Cherry" mall, there have been reports that the minors have already violated the rules of conduct in the premises of the mall.
The All-Russian Union of Insurers estimated the damage from the fire at RUB 3 billion (USD 52.35 million).
The Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation opened a criminal case on three articles: causing death by negligence, violating fire safety requirements, rendering services that do not meet security requirements. As of the morning of March 26, the investigators have detained four people. Their names are not officially disclosed, but it is known that among them are the building tenants, where the epicenter of the fire was, and the head of the management company, who is in charge of the mall. Some media write that the owner of the "Winter Cherry" Nadezhda Sudennok and the person responsible for the fire safety of the mall have been detained.
In addition, National Guard of Russia announced its intention to conduct an audit of the activities of all security officers of the "Winter Cherry" mall. This is the department's response to visitors’ complaints that began after the fire, the guards of the building allegedly blocked the stairs, preventing children from going downstairs.
Russia has issued a statement of mourning (March 27). The representatives of Austria, the USA, Germany, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and many other countries expressed condolences to the Russians. Ukraine is not on this list yet.