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Russians Support Those Who Suffered Losses at the Mall Fire in Kemerovo During First Funeral

Russians mourned the victims of a horrendous shopping mall fire at memorial services across the country Wednesday, sending white balloons into the air while flags waved at half-staff.

The fire decimated the Winter Cherry mall in Kemerovo Sunday as families tried to enjoy the first weekend of spring break. The fire killed 64 people, 41 of them children, according to authorities.

Investigators released 21 bodies for burial, which led to grieving families to gather Wednesday morning with flowers and photographs at the first funerals.

The chairman of Russia’s federal investigating authority, the Investigative Committee, indicated that bad wiring or a short circuit may have caused the blaze, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported. Investigators shared the mall’s fire exits were blocked and the alarm system was turned off.

A shopping mall security guard, who investigators blame for not turning on the alarm, was arrested on Wednesday, state news agency Tass reported. He told the press the alarm was out of order, but is one of two arrested and three detained in connection to the case.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who traveled to the city to offer his condolences, named Wednesday a national day of mourning. The president blamed “criminal negligence” for the fire and promised the people that the culprits will be rightfully disciplined.

Despite his words, thousands of locals protested outside the municipal building in Kemerovo, with chants of “Resign” and “Murderers!” aimed at officials. They believe the official death toll is underestimated, Tass reported.
The anger continued to flourish at a vigil in Moscow Tuesday night. Protesters arrived with banners reading: “Bribes kill children” and “We are all burning,” with chants of “The authorities must answer!” and “Putin resign!” taking over the crowd.
However, Russian authorities said Tuesday that no one was unaccounted for in the fire, Tass reported. And the committee investigating the blaze accused Ukrainian blogger Nikita Kuvikov, a comedian-type who calls himself Yevgeny Volnov, of sharing false information about the death toll.
Kemerovo, a city of about half a million people, was hurt tremendously by the tragedy — one of the deadliest blazes in Russia in recent years, according to state media.
Many accounts have risen in recent days about the turmoil that ensued as the fire wrapped up the converted Soviet-era sweet factory, sweeping through a children’s play area and movie complex on the shopping center’s top floor.
Witnesses detailed panicked scenes as shoppers attempted to escape — some jumping out of windows of the four-story building. A number of the victims, many of them children, died inside a locked movie theater.
Anna Zarechneva, who was in the mall’s cinema when the fire broke out, said moviegoers had little warning until the fire was too big. “No fire alarm to be heard. The crowd broke through one narrow door. The second exit for some reason was closed,” Zarechneva wrote on Instagram.
A father who lost his daughter in the fire shared her final words during the protest on Tuesday: “She said, ‘Dad, I love you. I’m suffocating, I’m fainting.'”
A number of children trapped inside the mall shared goodbye messages on Russian social-media platform VKontake before their accounts went silent. One fifth-grade student, Maria Moroz, posted: “We’re burning. It’s probably goodbye.” Her entire class was killed, Russia’s state-run Rossiya 24 reported, citing the school’s principal.


[via CNN]

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