Angry reactions have trailed the Winter Cherry mall fire, in which Russian authorities said 64 people died. Intefax News Agency claimed 41 children included the casualties. But Russians in the Kemerovo region where the mall was believed the death toll is higher and have alleged a cover-up. Reuters reported that relatives of the victims put the casualty figure at 85, most of them children, while some are still missing. The children were trapped in the cinema as were some other casualties.
It was alleged that staff of the mall responsible for public safety fled when the fire broke out.
The fire swept through the upper floors of the shopping center, where a cinema complex and children’s play area were located, on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin visited the fire scene, promising that those responsible for criminal negligence would be harshly punished.
“What’s happening here? This isn’t war, it’s not an unexpected methane explosion at a coal mine. People came to relax, children. We’re talking about demography and losing so many people,” Putin, visibly angry, told the meeting.
“Why? Because of some criminal negligence, because of slovenliness. How could this ever happen?,” he added.
“The first emotion when hearing about the number of dead and dead children is not to cry but to wail. And when you listen to what has been said here, speaking honestly, other emotions arise.”