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Thursday 13 December 2018

Funerals held for victims of deadly fire in Siberia

The fire caused an outpouring of grief and indignation against local authorities.

A portrait of a boy is surrounded by toys as people bring them to commemorate the victims of Sunday’s fire in a shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo (Pavel Golovkin/AP)
A portrait of a boy is surrounded by toys as people bring them to commemorate the victims of Sunday’s fire in a shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

By Yuras Karmanau, Associated Press

The funerals of some of the victims of the shopping mall fire in Russia which killed 64 people, many of them children, have taken place in the Siberian city of Kemerovo.

The city of half a million people 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles) east of Moscow is paralysed by grief over the fire last Sunday that engulfed the mall, killing dozens, including some locked inside a cinema.

While families were burying their loved ones, local residents in another part of the city were taking flowers to a makeshift memorial.

The deadly fire caused an outpouring of grief and indignation against local authorities.

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People stand behind the banner with the word Kemerovo, and Remember, made up of candles on the ground, in the Chechen capital Grozny, Russia (Musa Sadulayev/AP)

The Kemerovo governor never visited the site of the fire, while President Vladimir Putin did not announce a period of national mourning until days after the fire.

Many locals mistrust the investigators and fear authorities might be hiding the real scale of the disaster.

“We still don’t know what really happened, and no one takes the responsibility,” said 37-year-old nurse Valentina Skripchenko, who brought three roses to the makeshift memorial outside the mall.

And Tatyana Stupel, whose neighbour’s daughter died at the mall, had a poster she placed at the memorial along with flowers taken away by an unknown individual in plain clothes.

She said she had written “No-one takes the responsibility” on a piece of paper because locals “didn’t get the answers” about what happened.

While the city was mourning, the investigation into the fire was ongoing.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, pauses during a minute of silence to commemorate the victims of the fire (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

So far, investigators have identified a short circuit as a possible cause and said the emergency exits were locked shut, hampering any evacuation.

On Wednesday, a local court arrested one of the mall’s tenants, the mall’s technical director, two employees of a company maintaining the fire alarm system and a security guard who the investigators said turned off the fire alarm.

The family of 10-year-old Vadim Chmykhalov laid the boy to rest at a cemetery on the outskirts of town where a fresh row of graves has the marks of March 25, the date of the fire.

The graves of young children are covered with flowers and teddy bears.

The boy’s aunt, Irina Chumakova, dressed in black and sobbing said she feels “alone with the grief”.

“We want to know the truth,” she said. “But who is going to tell us? They are washing their hands off it and shifting responsibility.”

Press Association

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