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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Final death toll in Russia mall fire is 64 

The blaze is the worst to hit the country for years

Sixty four people were killed when a fire ripped through a busy shopping centre in an industrial city in western Siberia, Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said on Monday. Scores more are reported missing, including dozens of children.

The Emergency Situations minister Vladimir Puchkov told a televised briefing on Monday that firefighters have finished combing through the four floors of the shopping mall in the city of Kemerovo. Six bodies have not yet been recovered, he said.

Images on Russian television showed thick black smoke pouring out of the Winter Cherry shopping centre in the city of Kemerovo, which also houses a sauna, a bowling alley and a multiplex cinema and was packed with people.

Russian emergency services said the fire, which started on Sunday afternoon, had now been extinguished but that rescuers were struggling to reach the upper floors because the roof of the building had collapsed.

Russia's Channel One television station reported that some people had jumped from upper windows of the mall to escape the flames.

Investigators had initially reported five people dead including a child and another 30 people injured and taken to hospital.

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.

Around 120 people had been evacuated from the burning centre, rescuers 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.

Smoke rises above a multi-story shopping center in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, about 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, on Sunday, March 25, 2018. At least three children and a woman have died in a fire that broke out in a multi-story shopping center in the Siberian city of Kemerovo. (AP Photo/Sergei Gavrilenko)
Smoke rises above a multi-story shopping centre in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, about 3,000 kilometres east of Moscow. Sergei Gavrilenko / AP Photo

"Where to look for people? How many are there? That has greatly complicated the work of the firefighters," he said, adding that the thick smoke was also hindering their task.

Some 300 firefighters and rescue personnel were rushed to the scene and the fire was brought under control around 1730 GMT, local emergency officials said.

Russia's minister of emergency services, Vladimir Putchkov has gone to Kemerovo, RIA Novosti said.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz offered his sympathies.

"My condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the terrible fire in the shopping mall in Kemerovo. It is tragic that so many children are dead or missing. I wish a speedy recovery to those injured," he said on Twitter.

It was the deadliest blaze in Russia in recent years.

A shopping mall fire in March 2015 killed 11 people in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan some 800 kilometres (500 miles) east of Moscow.

In April 2013, a fire ravaged a psychiatric hospital in the Moscow region, killing 38 people, most of them patients who were engulfed by flames as they slept behind barred windows.

Just months later, in September 2013, 37 people were killed when a fire swept through a psychiatric hospital in the village of Luka in northwest Russia.

In 2009, 156 were killed in a nightclub fire in the city of Perm, 1,200 kilometres east of Moscow in one of the deadliest accidents in Russia's modern history.