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Four facts about the Kemerovo fire


Moscow (AFP)

Russian authorities have blamed the heavy death toll from the huge blaze that swept through a shopping centre in the Siberian city of Kemerovo on negligence and rampant fire safety violations.

- Most of the dead were children -

Forty-one children were killed in a fire that ripped through play areas and cinemas on the top floor, the Kemerovo regional administration told AFP. So far 25 bodies have been identified, 13 of them children.

The chief of the Investigative Committee, which is probing the blaze, Alexander Bastrykin, told President Vladimir Putin that a teacher left her whole class alone in a games room and went shopping.

- Exits were blocked -

Bastrykin said that the fire was most likely started by an electrical fault. He said that many doors to cinemas and play areas on the top floor were locked or blocked. He said cinema doors were closed apparently to stop people going in without tickets.

Safety exits were locked, regional governor Aman Tuleyev told Putin. A video posted online showed people trying to break down a safety exit, shouting "We're going to suffocate!"

- Fire alarms didn't work -

The fire alarm system had not been working since March 19 but those responsible had not made any effort to fix it, Bastrykin said.

However there was a working public warning system but the security guard responsible did not press the button "for reasons that are unclear", Bastrykin said.

Witnesses said that automatic sprinkler systems also failed to function.

Staff who were supposed to take charge during the evacuation "were the first to flee", leaving people to their fate, Bastrykin said.

Witnesses said they did not immediately realise the seriousness of the situation or thought it was a drill.

- Building was unsafe -

The authorities have said that the shopping mall, which opened in 2013, was converted from a former confectionery factory with "major violations" of safety rules in its construction.

The emergency services said that they had identified serious problems with fire safety when the building was converted and had refused to certify it as safe.

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