Russian shopping mall fire kills 64; no alarms reported

At least 64 people, some children, killed in Russian mall fire

A total of 64 people, many of them children, perished in a fire that ravaged a busy shopping mall in an industrial city in Siberia, officials said Monday as rescuers searched through piles of charred rubble to recover bodies.

Kemerovo lies about 3,600km east of Moscow.

"Our children burned while we just watched", said Olga Lillyevyali, who rushed to the shopping centre as the fire was under way, Russian news website Meduza reported. The fire, one of the deadliest in Russian Federation since the break-up of the Soviet Union, swept through the upper floors of the "Winter Cherry" shopping centre on Sunday afternoon where a cinema complex and children's play area were located.

News agencies said more than 100 people had been evacuated from the mall, which contains cinemas, restaurants and shops.

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 shopping mall, which has an overall area of 23,000 square meters, opened in 2013.

Winter Cherry was one of Kemerovo's most popular entertainment centers for children, with its own indoor skating rink, petting zoo and trampolines. Ten of the 44 people who sought medical treatment remained hospitalized, Petrenko said.

An eleven-year old boy was in intensive care after jumping from a third-floor window to escape the thick smoke during a dramatic escape caught on camera.

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Sixty-four deaths were confirmed after the firefighters finished combing through the four floors of the mall, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov told a televised briefing.

The cause wasn't immediately known but a criminal investigation was begun.

"We didn't hear the fire alarm, they even didn't turn on the light during the show", she said.

The fatal fire drew an outpouring of grief and sympathy from Russians and people overseas on social media.

Four people have been detained for questioning, including the head of the company that manages the shopping centre.

President Vladimir Putin late on Sunday offered his "deep condolences" to the families of the victims.

The Kemerovo region will observe three days of mourning starting on Tuesday.

The tragedy has already launched a series of checks into compliance with fire safety regulations across the country.

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