Moscow, Russia: At least 37 people were killed when fire ripped through a shopping centre in an industrial city in western Siberia, Russian news agency TASS reported, citing investigators, with scores more reported missing.
Hundreds of fireighters were deployed to fight the blaze at the Winter Centre in the city of Kemerovo which also contained a sauna, multiplex cinema and bowling alley and is believed to have been packed with people.
“At this time, we can confirm the deaths of 37 people in the fire at the Kemerovo shopping centre”, Russia’s Investigative Committee said, according to TASS.
Investigators had initially reported five people dead including a child and another 30 people injured and taken to hospital.
As the new death toll was announced, a source in the local rescue services said 69 people including 40 children were reported missing, the RIA Novosti agency reported, while the Investigative Committee said it was “verifying information that 35 people could be missing”.
The preliminary findings of the inquiry said the fire started around 1100 GMT in one of the cinema halls and destroyed more than 1,000 square metres of the centre, news agencies reported.
“The roof collapsed in two theatres in the cinema,” the Investigative Committee said.
“This shopping centre on several floors was packed with people mid-day Sunday. No one knows exactly how many people there were inside when the fire broke out,” Alexandre Eremeyev, an official with the local Russian emergency services ministry, said in a statement.
Around 120 people had been evacuated from the burning centre, rescuers said.
The fire was brought under control around 1730 GMT, local emergency officials said, adding that some 300 firefighters and rescue personnel had been sent to the scene.
Russia’s minister of emergency services, Vladimir Putchkov has gone to Kemerovo, RIA Novosti said.