MOSCOW — At least 64 people, many of them believed to be children, perished in the Siberian city of Kemerovo as a massive fire swept through a crowded shopping center where fire exits had been blocked officials said Monday.
Even as flames still licked parts of the huge building, about 40 people were treated at the site, and at least 10 others were hospitalized, according to Russia’s Ministry of Health. Emergency services officials said that 64 is the final death toll, but local media reported that dozens of people could be missing. Some bodies will require genetic testing to identify, officials said.
Within hours of opening an investigation into the causes of the fire, the Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko announced that authorities were looking into several “serious violations” of fire safety codes. Petrenko said that fire exits were blocked, and a private security guard turned off the fire alarm after receiving notice of the fire.
Kemerovo is nearly 2,000 miles east of Moscow. Sunday was the first day of a week-long school holiday in Russia. On social media, friends and family shared photos of children believed to have been at the mall when the fire broke out. Other videos showed men attempting to break through a locked door in a stairwell to escape encroaching flames.
One of the hospitalized victims was an 11-year-old boy who jumped out of a fourth-floor window to escape the fire. He was described by authorities Monday as being in serious condition and emotionally traumatized.