37 dead, 45 injured in Russia shopping mall inferno

Russia shopping mall
Firefighters extinguish a fire at a shopping mall in Kemerovo, Russia March 25, 2018 Reuters

At least 37 people including children were killed and 69 others reported missing after a massive blaze broke out at a shopping mall in the Russian city of Kemerovo, authorities said on Monday.

The first reports of the fire at the Winter Cherry mall started coming in on Sunday afternoon, reports Sputnik news.

The police immediately cordoned off the area began evacuations.

An emergency services official confirmed on Sunday night that the missing people included 40 children. Forty-five people were injured.

Various social media posts said that fire alarms failed to go off as people rushed in panic through thick clouds of smoke, some jumping out of windows.

Russian Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov said that firefighters were not being able to reach the interiors of the mall due to high temperature.

"The firefighters and rescuers are working at the risk of their own lives... There is no access to certain rooms because of high temperatures," Sputnik news quoted the minister as saying.

According to the latest data, over 660 people are engaged in emergency response activities.

Russian Deputy Emergencies Minister Vladlen Aksyonov said on Monday morning that "at the moment the firefighting process is ongoing, the interfloor constructions could collapse".

A group of children from a school in Terescevsky were at a movie theatre near the centre of the blaze.

According to local KP News, some of the trapped children called their families from inside the theatre.

"Tell mom that I loved her. Tell everyone that I loved them," a 12-year-old girl told her aunt before her phone switched off.

The cause of the blaze is not yet known but authorities have launched an investigation.

Besides cinema screens, the complex, opened in 2013, includes restaurants, a sauna, a bowling alley and a petting zoo. (IANS)