President mourns fire victims

Editor:Sharon Lee
Updated:2018-03-27 09:22:05
  People place toys and flowers at a makeshift memorial for the victims of a shopping mall fire in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, Russia March 26, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

  Condolences sent to Russia over mall disaster that killed dozens

  President Xi Jinping wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday to express his condolences over the fire in the Russian city of Kemerovo that killed at least 64 people.

  Aside from heavy casualties, the fire also caused property losses, Xi said.

  In his letter, Xi mourned the dead on behalf of the Chinese government, the Chinese people as well as himself, and he expressed sympathy to the bereaved families and the injured.

  Premier Li Keqiang conveyed his condolences over the accident to his Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev.

  The fire began on Sunday afternoon at the Winter Cherry mall in Kemerovo, a city about 3,000 kilometers east of Moscow, and was extinguished by Monday morning after burning through the night.

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

  Putin extended condolences to the families and friends of the victims on Sunday and ordered authorities to provide all necessary help.

  A total of 663 people took part in the search and rescue operation, the Emergencies Ministry said, adding that work was complicated by leaking gas, high temperatures and dense smoke.

  Preliminary reports said four of the dead were children asphyxiated by the gas.

  An 11-year-old boy who jumped from a fourth-floor window was severely injured, according to Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova.

  Winter Cherry was one of Kemerovo's most popular entertainment centers for children, with its own indoor skating rink, petting zoo and trampolines, the Associated Press reported. Kemerovo residents said the mall was packed with children and their parents when the fire broke out.

  A government investigative committee said four people were detained and questioned. They included tenants of the premises where fire may have started and the head of the management company that serviced the building, Xinhua News Agency reported.

  People shared their stories as well as video and photos from inside the building on social media.

  Anna Zare, a Kemerovo resident, described the scene: "In the middle of the movie, a door shut and someone screamed 'Fire! Fire!'"

  "We could not hear any alarm. The crowd rushed through the single narrow passageway. Black smoke filled the children's playground and a movie hall. We couldn't breathe. ´ There were many children crying," she said.

  On Monday, the Prosecutor General's Office ordered fire safety features checked at all shopping malls in Russia.