A grieving man has told how his entire family was wiped out in the Kemerovo shopping mall inferno – and said the true number of victims could be as high as 350.
Igor Vostrikov, 31, lost his wife, sister and three children Anna, 7, Artem, 5, Roman, 2 in the appalling blaze. The current official death toll is 64 people – 41 of them children.
Vostrikov’s family was shut inside one of three cinemas in the burning Winter Cherry complex, and used their phones to beg that that the doors were unbolted so they could escape.
As Vladimir Putin visited the scene of the carnage, the bereft widower has spoken of his incalculable loss, his fury at corrupt politicians including the Kremlin leader who he holds responsible for poor safety at the Kemerovo shopping mall – and his conviction that the Russian authorities are hiding the true death toll.
It came as Putin today laid flowers at the scene of the horror – and said ‘criminal negligence’ was behind the deaths.
‘What is happening here? These are not armed hostilities. This is not an unexpected release of methane. People, children came to relax,’ Putin said. ‘We are talking about demographics but are losing so many people. Because of what? Because of some criminal negligence, slovenliness,’ Putin said in comments released by the Kremlin.
‘The first feelings when they speak about the number of victims and the number of dead children… one feels like wailing – not crying,’ he added.
But in a heartrending video, grieving businessman Vostrikov said: ‘My name is Igor Vostrikov, in this fire I have lost my sister Alyona Sabadash, my wife Elena Vostrikova, and my three children, aged seven, five and two years old.
‘They died because they were locked in the cinema – and nobody is telling this.
‘They called from inside, they asked for help, saying that they were locked in there, ‘We can’t breathe…’
Igor Vostrikov, 31, lost his wife, sister and three children Anna, 7, Artem, 5, Roman, 2 in the appalling blaze. The current official death toll is 64 people – 41 of them children
In a heartrending video, grieving businessman Vostrikov said: ‘My name is Igor Vostrikov, in this fire I have lost my sister Alyona Sabadash (pictured), my wife Elena Vostrikova, and my three children, aged seven, five and two years old
‘What is happening here? These are not armed hostilities. This is not an unexpected release of methane. People, children came to relax,’ Putin said (pictured speaking to a victim in Kemerovo). ‘We are talking about demographics but are losing so many people. Because of what? Because of some criminal negligence, slovenliness’
Security footage shows the first moments when the fire spread throughout the mall in Kemerovo, Siberia yesterday
In the harrowing video, people react in panic and begin to flee when the roof appears to collapse and the inferno rages at the Kemerovo shopping centre
The latest official death toll from the Kemerovo inferno is 64 with 47 injured and many still unaccounted for. Pictured: The blaze last night
‘Nobody helped because when fire broke out, all people managed to run away and escape, and those remained inside cinema halls just could not do it. This is the fact.’
In tears he said his daughter, two sons, wife and sister ‘did not have a chance to survive, this is it. They were left there to die… this is what I want to say.’
He was out of the city when his wife Elena, 30, and sister Alyona, 23, took his children to the cinema on what should have been a fun family Sunday.
‘There were three cinemas there, one was open, people escaped from there, and two others were locked,’ he said
‘They kept calling… until the last moment. I thought it was an act of terror… because when they were calling they said – ‘We are locked here, we can’t breathe, save us!’
In fact it was incompetence: the fire alarm had been broken almost a week – and no-one bothered to fix it.
At these cinemas it was routine to lock the doors to stop gatecrashers getting inside.
He was out of the city when his wife Elena, 30, and sister Alyona (pictured), 23, took his children to the cinema on what should have been a fun family Sunday
He said: ‘My wife called me from there and said goodbye…
‘My sister called my parents from there and said goodbye… my wife’s last words were – ‘Igoryusha, we are locked inside the cinema, we can’t breath, we are dying, I love you…
‘I stayed connected to her for two more minutes but she was not replying…
‘I told her to lie down on the floor, something about clothes… but smoke came within some moments… it all happened in a moment…’
‘All of them were calling from there, this is the 21st century, all with mobile phones…’
He insisted: ‘Let me tell about the number of victims, they are lying to you, here we are counting from 200 to 350, maybe more,’ he said.
‘When you are watching the news – 64 victims and nine children out of them – it is a lie! It is just a lie!
‘Dozens of burned bodies here, dozens of burned bodies! They are lying. Huge shopping centre, three cinema halls, this pet zoo…’
The authorities have strongly denied persistent local reports that there are more victims but the grieving father said: I don’t trust anybody…
‘They are standing here, those corrupted bribe-takers, they have their own instructions…
‘But if such a tragedy happened, why are you withholding it, why aren’t you telling about it? Three families died… so many victims…’
Vostrikov said he had refused to sign a paper – as demanded by police – promising not to disclose certain information about the tragedy.
‘I was at the headquarters yesterday, there was a hall full of people there, and all of them lost their relatives not in the play zone as it is said in all the (Russian) news, but in these damn cinema halls, just all of them.’
He insisted: Surely there are more than 64 victims… it was a day off… according to some information there were 350 victims, they had been bringing bodies here all night long.’
In tears he said his daughter, two sons, wife and sister ‘did not have a chance to survive, this is it. They were left there to die… this is what I want to say.’ Pictured: Vostrikov and his family
Vostrikov (pictured with his wife) said he had refused to sign a paper – as demanded by police – promising not to disclose certain information about the tragedy
In a tirade on his social media, the devastated man hit out furiously at Putin over alleged corruption in Russia under which officials enrich themselves from state money but fail to ensure safety for ordinary people. Pictured: Alyona Sabadash, sister of Igor Vostrikov
He said: ‘My son Igor was in the morgue on Monday and said that we’ll have to make DNA tests. It is impossible to recognise anybody.’ Pictured: The man’s family, now dead
He was told people ‘had been carried and carried… Let them say what they want about 64 and some kids among them’.
He was out of the city but said his mother Nadezhda had rushed to the scene.
‘The rescue team people were not ready, they did not have helmets, she was begging, she went on her knees begging them,’ he said.
She said: ‘Five of my kids are there! My daughter… three grandchildren and daughter in law! Save them please!
‘But they were just standing and waiting, saying – ‘Nobody is there. Calm her down’ – that was the reaction of our rescuers.’
Those in the cinema – like his family – were ‘locked in… without any chance’.
He said: ‘The fire alarm did not work.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with victims injured during a fire in a shopping mall, at a hospital in the Siberian city of Kemerovo
‘The first feelings when they speak about the number of victims and the number of dead children… one feels like wailing – not crying,’ Putin said
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin at a meeting to discuss relief efforts following a fire that engulfed the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping centre
‘Because our corrupted society supported by our Aman (Tuleev, the the regional governor in Kemerovo), then VVP (Putin) – everyone understands who I am talking about – they have brought the country to this point…
‘These buildings for shopping centres are made from God knows what materials, walls were burning there, just walls, no fire safety at all.
‘It is to blame the owners, lessees, and those who locked the doors… act of terror or not… there were so many little kids… whole busses with kids, they were brought to watch this new cartoon…
‘Maybe there is a routine thing to lock these door, to stop those without tickets from coming in, maybe that teacher asked to do it… she was sitting here and all her kids who she brought were there…’
He said: ‘All the victims are from those two locked cinema halls.
‘The third one was open, all managed to run out of it. Two were locked, people tried to break through the doors but did not succeed.’
This Russian Emergency Situations Ministry photo shows an aerial view of emergency services cleaning the wreckage at the scene of the multi-story shopping center after a fire
Russian emergency service staff work at the site of a fire at a multi-storey shopping centre in Kemerovo on Tuesday as the official death toll now shows 41 children were killed
Thousands of residents held a rally in Kemerovo to demand a full probe following the fire and are disputing the official death toll, claiming the authorities are hiding the real scale of the disaster
Investigators and witnesses said many people – including children – were burned alive because emergency exits were locked, notably at a multiplex cinema where children were watching cartoons
Asked if he was receiving help for his loss, he replied: ‘What psychological help? How can they help me?
‘Yes they are running a headquarters here, they offered me some valerian drops, how can it help me?’
‘Why did not they smash those doors? Just because these were cartoons for children, only mums and kids were there…
His mother Nadezhda said: ‘They often went to this cinema…
‘This Sunday they went there to die. I wish I felt something special that day and asked them to stay at home…sometimes I have have this kind of intuition.
‘I was in touch with Alyona until the last moment. She called me about 4pm, shouting that lights went off and they were burning…
‘I rushed there, I gave up everything and I was there in some three minutes. I tried to get inside, asked to let my family out.
‘My son Igor was in the morgue on Monday and said that we’ll have to make DNA tests. It is impossible to recognise anybody.’
In a tirade on his social media, the devastated man hit out furiously at Putin over alleged corruption in Russia under which officials enrich themselves from state money but fail to ensure safety for ordinary people.
He sees this as the reason for the deaths in the inferno.
‘My family is not here any more,’ he wrote. The ruling regime in my country is to blame. Every official dreams to steal like Putin. Every government official treats people like dirt – and his bosses treat him in the same way as all those who are beneath them.’
Her shocking testimony comes as new photographs (one of which is shown left) from the scene have revealed the devastation the fire left after tearing through the Winter Cherry mall and leaving dozens dead. Right: Viktoria Pochankina, 12, who was in the shopping centre when the fire started on Sunday
The new photographs showing the devastation inside (pictured) come as dozens of children remain missing and feared dead today after the appalling tragedy in Siberia
Pictured: Firefighters clearing debris at the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping centre in Prospekt Lenina this morning after the deadly fire was put out
The children were reportedly burned alive in a furnace of up to 700C. Pictured: The interior of the mall today after the fire was extinguished
After the fire, he said: ‘They will appoint a scapegoat and close down the case and the threats will remain – negligence, total corruption, drinking and general degradation of the whole population.
‘Putin will keep punishing personally this or that person. The order is to check all shopping malls and we have many other building, just old houses, hospitals – a tragedy may happen anywhere.’
The Kemerovo region declared three days of mourning beginning Tuesday.
Thousands of residents held a rally in Kemerovo to demand a full probe following the fire and are disputing the official death toll, claiming the authorities are hiding the real scale of the disaster.
Many critics have wondered why the Kremlin did not call a nationwide day of mourning and said national television channels did not pull entertainment programmes from their schedule fast enough.
Some Muscovites are planing a vigil in the city centre this evening and several Russian cities declared a period of mourning in solidarity with Kemerovo.
Investigators and witnesses said many people – including children – were burned alive because emergency exits were locked, notably at a multiplex cinema where children were watching cartoons.
The Investigative Committee said a criminal probe has been opened and that five people have been arrested including an official of the mall’s security firm who is suspected of deactivating the public address system when the fire broke out.
The response came after CCTV footage showed how shockingly fast the flames spread during the deadly blaze that killed 64 people.
In the harrowing video, people react in panic and begin to flee when the roof appears to collapse and the inferno rages at the shopping centre.
A Russian woman cries as she stands near the shopping centre that was engulfed in flames in the Siberian city
Unconfirmed reports in Kemerovo said at noon local time (6am UK time) that at least 96 bodies have been found in the mall, many of them children. Pictured: fire crews desperately battling the blaze
The MP for the Siberian city – Anton Gorelkin, who is a member of the pro-Putin United Russia party – accused the city’s deputy mayor of having ‘his eyes closed by money’ when the mall was opened in 2013.
He added that the complex had been built from ‘s*** and sticks: Cheap plastic, a labyrinth of corridors and a hellish mess of ownership documents,’ according to The Moscow Times.
‘No amount of corrupt money can make up for the lives of children,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the country’s anti-corruption Investigative Committee revealed that a security guard switched off the fire alarm at the mall when he was told a blaze at broken out.
Fire exits were also blocked at the Kemerovo shopping centre, the government body added, explaining that there were serious safety violations in the construction and use of the shopping centre complex.
‘Serious violations took place when the mall was being built and when it was functioning. The fire exits were blocked,’ Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the committee, said in a statement, adding that officials are now searching for the guard who turned off the system.
The aunt of a 12-year-old girl presumed dead in the Russian mall fire has also spoken of the heartbreaking final call she made from within the blazing building.
Viktoria ‘Vika’ Pochankina told aunt Evgenia that ‘everything is burning’ during the desperate conversation as dozens of people were trapped inside the shopping centre, adding: ‘The doors are blocked. I can’t go out, I can’t breathe.’
Left: Another young girl (with her mother) feared dead in the blaze is pictured, as rescuers comb the scorched shopping centre she disappeared in for remains. Right: Maria Moroz, 13, who went missing with her mother Polina, 35
One 11-year-old-boy, Sergei Moskalenko (pictured with his family, who died in the blaze), is in a coma after jumping from a blazing window – a fall seen on video as he hit an awning – and it was confirmed this morning that his parents died in the fire
Marina Baranova (left), 57, from Pavlodar in Kazakhstan was with her daughter Natalia Ustinova (right), 36, and Natalia’s children
Her shocking testimony comes as new photographs from the scene have revealed the devastation the fire left after tearing through the Winter Cherry mall and leaving dozens dead.
During the saddening call with the young girl trapped inside the building, her aunt Evgenia told the terrified child: ‘Vika, take off your clothes, cover your nose’.
But Vika replied: ‘Auntie, tell all my family I love them. Tell mum that I loved her…’ before the call ended abruptly.
Evgenia added: ‘The school vacations have just begun and almost all their class was there – about 10 people. Two or three parents and a teacher.
‘The teacher left the kids in the cinema and went with parents in the shopping mall. So all the adults survived…’
Some of the victims of the blaze were reportedly burned alive in a furnace of up to 700C.
Natalia Ustinova (pictured), 36, was in the shopping centre with her children and her mother in the Russian shopping mall
Natalia Selezen (pictured), 38, was also among the 64 people who died in the blaze
Stanislav Arkhipenko, 28 and his five-year-old daughter Viktoria (pictured together) also perished in the deadly blaze
Igor Teslenko (pictured), 51, and his nine-year-old daughter Arina died in the inferno at the Kemerovo shopping centre
Tatiana Darsalia, 37, died in the blaze but her 14-year-old daughter Eleonora Darsalia (pictured) managed to escape alive
There are also claims on social media – so far impossible to verify – that the number of dead is higher amid suspicions of a cover-up. Pictured, Anton Mukhin (second left), 28 and his son Ratibor, five
Konstantin Agarkov (pictured left and right, with his sister), nine, and his 10-year-old sister Maria Agarkova, 10, died in the fire on Sunday afternoon
Men were holding a rug to break his fall but he hit an awning over a door as he fell around 40 ft
Meanwhile an 11-year-old-boy, Sergei Moskalenko, is in a coma after jumping from a blazing window – a fall seen on video as he hit an awning – and it was confirmed this morning that his parents died in the fire.
Men were holding a rug to break his fall but he hit an awning over a door as he fell around 40 ft. Despite his crash, he is expected to survive.
Family pictures show his mother Olesya, 30, father Evgeny, 35, sister Ksenia, four, who are missing and presumed dead in the inferno.
Sergei’s two grandmothers have contacted the hospital, promising to care for him, say officials.
Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova, who visited the Keremovo hospital where the victims were receiving treatment, said on Russian state television that Sergei is in the gravest condition of all those hurt.
Pictures emerged of the missing children with little hope that any will be found alive in the carnage of the shopping centre as firefighters struggled to reach the worst-hit areas.
Skvortsova said some bodies are so badly charred they are ‘unidentifiable’ by sight alone, adding: ‘DNA tests will be required.’
Vilena Chernikova, 11 (left), and Diana Nizovskaya, also 11 (right), are both missing after the devastating fire in Siberia
One security guard said lighted candles were on a table in the play area for a celebration moments before the fire started. Pictured: The play area deemed likely to have been the source of the fire
Family pictures show his mother Olesya, 30, father Evgeny, 35, sister Ksenia, four (left with Sergey), who are missing and presumed dead in the inferno. Right: Sergey
Emergency services clear the wreckage at the scene of the multi-story shopping centre in Kemerovo in Siberia after the deadly blaze
Sources among firefighters have repeatedly indicated a significantly higher final toll, as have accounts linked to the number of corpses allegedly taken to morgues, but there has been so far no official confirmation.
Meanwhile the Kremlin was forced to deny it has sought to block bad news being released on the Kemerovo fire.
‘As for banning bad news, this is absurd,’ insisted Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.
He had been asked whether the Kremlin had ordered state-run channels to minimise coverage of the inferno.
This suggestion was ‘sheer foolishness’, he claimed.
A video showed the panic at the start of the tragedy with parents screaming for their children and others shouting ‘fire, fire’.
Another highlighted fire doors locked and people unable to escape.
One girl, Maria Moroz, 13, messaged from the cinema: ‘We are on fire….’
A relative replied then she said: ‘Looks like this is farewell from me.’ She is feared dead.
A woman heading to a birthday party at the centre when it burst into flames, Milana Tatarchukova, said: ‘The most horrifying scene was a merry-go-round that was still moving with children on it.’
Speaking to RFERL, she added: ‘The operator abandoned it when the fire started. Children were still going around.’
She said the children were eventually saved by a parent who succeeded in shutting the ride down and unfastening the children’s seat belts.
Sergei’s two grandmothers have contacted the hospital, promising to care for him, say officials. Pictured: The young boy whose family died in the fire
Owner of the shopping mall Nadezhda Suddenok was detained for questioning. Pictured: Sergei, who jumped from a window to survive the blaze, and his father Evgeny, who died
Flowers, candles and toys outside the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping centre in Prospekt Lenina Street
Veronika Trusova, eight (left), and Vasilisa Trusova, five (right), are both missing after the catastrophic blaze
Veronika Ponushkova, 11 (pictured), is missing after the horrendous inferno in Siberia claimed dozens of lives
Five-year-old Viktoria Arkhipenko (pictured) is among the children missing after the shocking fire in Russia
One woman, Ekaterina, said: ‘I was with my husband on the third floor in a furniture shop. Suddenly the ceiling began to crack, first in one place, then everywhere. Pictured: Egor Kovalevsky, nine, who is missing after the fire
Left: Stanislav Arkhipenko, 28 and his daughter Viktoria, five, who are both missing. Vadim Chmykhalov, ten (right), is also missing
Among the missing are eight girls from one class in Treschevsky village – all 11 or 12 years old – named as: Viktoria Pochankina, Veronika Ponushkova, Elena Chernikova, Tatiana Kurchevskaya, Sergey Maneshkin, Viktoria Zipunova, Anastasia Smirnova, Diana Nizovskaya.
Some of those listed as missing have been found alive – but they had not been at the complex in Kemerovo.
‘The police have now found five of the 64 citizens who were earlier listed as missing, three minors, a young woman and a young man,’ said a statement Monday.
‘It turned out that they were not on the site of the tragedy.’
The body of a Kemerovo high school teacher, Tatiana Darsalia, was the first to be identified.
‘Serious violations took place when the mall was being built and when it was functioning. The fire exits were blocked,’ Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the committee, said in a statement, adding that officials are now searching for the guard who turned off the system after receiving the call about the fire. Pictured: Mourners outside the mall today
Alexander Lillevyali lost three daughters, 11-year-old twins and a 5-year-old, who were in a cinema hall on the top floor watching a cartoon. Pictured: A girl cries at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the fire
A youth mourns the victims of a shopping mall fire at a makeshift memorial in the Siberian city of Kemerovo. At least 64 people have died
Witness testimony indicated that the fire alarm did not go off and that staff did not arrange for the evacuation at the shopping mall, which was converted from a former confectionery factory in 2013. Pictured: Locals mourn the deaths of the 64 people in the fire
Toys and flowers are put down near the mall after the tragic fire killed at least 64 people – many of whom were children watching a film at the cinema
Kemerovo’s MP Anton Gorelkin – a member of the pro-Putin United Russia party – accused the city’s deputy mayor of having ‘his eyes closed by money’ when the mall was opened in 2013. Pictured: Mourners near the site of the tragedy today
A Russian Orthodox priest conducts a requiem for the victims of the devastating fire in Kemerovo which left 64 people dead
The Prosecutor General’s Office on Monday ordered all shopping malls in Russia to be checked for fire safety features. Pictured: A woman cries before laying flowers at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the blaze
She had brought her class to the shopping mall.
Owner of the shopping mall Nadezhda Suddenok was detained for questioning. The official in charge of fire safety and a senior manager were also held.
The investigators have launched a probe into possible negligence and violations of the fire safety rules.
Witness testimony indicated that the fire alarm did not go off and that staff did not arrange for the evacuation at the shopping mall, which was converted from a former confectionery factory in 2013.
Local governor Aman Tuleev said he had lost an 11-year-old relative in the fire. ‘I feel it very close, because my very close relative died there, a girl,’ he said.
Staff may have locked cinema doors before the horrifying inferno spread
There was alarming evidence on Monday that staff often locked cinema doors to stop gatecrashers getting inside.
Reports also say fire doors in the complex were locked.
The mall – a converted Soviet-era confectionary factory – was described as a ‘labyrinth’ with few windows, one main staircase, one lift shaft and one escalator.
Local MP for Kemerovo Anton Gorelkin said there were no fire alarms. Fire doors were locked and extinguishing systems did not work,’ he said.
‘This is horrendous,’ said the MP from pro-Vladimir Putin party United Russia.
The mall – a converted Soviet-era confectionary factory – was described as a ‘labyrinth’ with few windows, one main staircase, one lift shaft and one escalator
A key beneficiary of the shopping mall in Kemerovo – capital of Russia’s main coal mining region – was named as emigre billionaire. Denis Shtengelov, the owner of KDV Group, who now resides in Australia. Pictured: The fire raging
This handout picture released by The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry on March 26, 2018, shows emergency firefighters battling to extinguish a fire outside a burning shopping centre in Kemerovo
‘I find it very hard to find words to speak about children who were burned alive.
‘Dozens of lives are lost, and very likely there will be more bodies found.’
He warned: ‘It is incredibly important to openly speak about what happened, and why. People who are guilty in this must be punished.
‘I believe that people whose pockets were filling with millions from this shopping mall knew that one day these money will smell of blood.
‘Whatever was the reason, children’s play, or arson, or – this wasn’t something that caused deaths. It was complete, total absence of working fire alarm and fire extinguishing.
Locals grieve near a shopping center Zimnaya Vishnya in the West Siberian city of Kemerovo
A view of the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping centre after the fire was extinguished yesterday
‘Locked fire exits which turned the shopping mall into a trap.
‘Children that died next to fire exits.
‘They knew where to run, they were going in the right direction, but doors were locked.’
He also accused the city’s deputy mayor of having ‘his eyes closed by money’ in ‘overlooking blatant safety issues’ when the mall was opened in 2013.
The mall had been built from ‘s*** and sticks: Cheap plastic, a labyrinth of corridors and a hellish mess of ownership documents,’ he added, according to The Moscow Times.
‘No amount of corrupt money can make up for the lives of children,’ he said.
He also said families will be given one million rubles (£12,400) for each loved who one who died in the blaze.
According to TASS new agency, he explained: ‘I have made a decision that each family, which unfortunately has one member dead, will receive one million rubles in compensation.
‘If there are two, God forbid, then it will be two million rubles. The decision has been made.’
He also said teams of psychologists have been assigned to each family to help them get through the tragedy.
Alexander Lillevyali lost three daughters, 11-year-old twins and a 5-year-old, who were in a cinema hall on the top floor watching a cartoon.
Tractors are used to clear away the charred debris that has been removed from the shopping centre this morning
Russian Emergency Situations Ministry employees outside the stricken centre where up to a hundred people are thought to have perished
A truck outside the Zimnyaya Vishnya carrying away debris after the deadly blaze killed dozens in the SIberian city of Kemerovo
Russian Orthodox priests conduct a requiem in memory of people who died during a fire in the multi-story shopping centre
Fire trucks park up near the shopping centre as work continues to clear the debris and potentially find more survivors or victims
Local governor Aman Tuleev said families will be given one million rubles (£12,400) for each loved who one who died in the blaze. Pictured: Firefighters in the shopping centre today
Lillevyali told the Meduza news website that one of his daughters called him, saying that they could smell the smoke but could not get out because the door was locked.
‘I was shouting into the phone, telling her to get out but there was nothing I could do – the fire was in front of me,’ he said.
The Prosecutor General’s Office on Monday ordered all shopping malls in Russia to be checked for fire safety features.
A mother, Yulia, was in the play area of the Winter Cherry mall with her three children and her own mother.
She said: ‘The fire began on the 4th level, bouncy castles caught fire. It all was happening right in front of my eyes, I was sitting at the sofa opposite the play zone.
‘The fire was grew within seconds, smoke covered all around. It was a miracle that we survived.
‘I ran to look for my children, when I gathered all of them, everything was in smoke. I lost a sight of my mother… Luckily, I met her downstairs’.
Igor, a boy, said: ‘I was watching a movie with my seven-year-old sister. Suddenly the door opened and a woman shouted – fire!
Left: Dmitry Galanin and his son Mikhail, ten, are both missing after the fire. Right: Egor Kovalevsky, nine, and his sister Svetlana, five, who are also missing
The body of a Kemerovo high school teacher, Tatiana Darsalia (pictured), was the first to be identified
The flames burned for five hours (left) as people ushered their children away from the fire (right)
People queue this morning so they can donate blood to those hurt in the disastrous fire in Siberia
Left: Yana Alimova, 42 and her daughter Ruslana, five, who are both missing after the fire. RIght: Viktoria Arkhipenko, five, who is also missing
Candles and flowers have been laid near the site of the disastrous blaze in Kemerovo in Siberia
Left: Elizaveta Sypko, 12, who is missing after the deadly blaze. Right: Liza Ushakova, 12, who is also unaccounted for
‘Clouds of smoke appeared in a second, I grabbed my sister and we ran downstairs. The crowd was terrible there, I could see nothing.
‘It took us five minutes to run out. My hands are still trembling, what if that woman did not come in and shout…?’
One woman, Ekaterina, said: ‘I was with my husband on the third floor in a furniture shop. Suddenly the ceiling began to crack, first in one place, then everywhere.
‘We thought it would collapse on our heads in some seconds. Everyone rushed out including shop assistants, up to 50 people got in one lift.
‘People were jumping on each other on the escalator. Men were running ahead of women… and on the ground floor all were just standing and watching our rush, nobody was in a hurry.
‘Many people got outside without coats, many were from fitness centre and spa, in flip flops and covered in towels… Some people looted TV sets.’
Another woman who survived the blaze has described the hell of getting out of the shopping mall with her family – and has demanded answers from the authorities to a string of security failings that led to the appalling death toll.
Mother Anna Zarechneva, 32, had gone with her husband and son to watch film Pacific Rim at the Winter Cherry complex.
Her husband Dima got his family clear and then went back to try and bring out children stuck in the cinema – but the inferno was already too strong.
‘It is just horrible,’ she said. This was an ordinary weekend day. We had put on our best clothes and went to the Winter Berry.
‘It was crowded, we hardly found a free parking space…but we got seats. In the middle of the movie the doors opened and somebody shouted ‘fire, fire!’.
‘I grabbed the hand of my son Daniil and quickly ran towards the exit. My husband Dima followed us. The film was not stopped, the hall was in darkness.
‘There were no alarms. The crowd rushed to the only open door. The second exit was locked…
Mother Anna Zarechneva (pictured with her family), 32, had gone with her husband and son to watch film Pacific Rim at the Winter Cherry complex
Anna’s husband Dima got his family clear and then went back to try and bring out children stuck in the cinema – but the inferno was already too strong
‘Having got out of the cinema hall, we saw thick black biting smoke which covered the whole playground and the second auditorium. We could not see anything. It was almost impossible to breath. We reached the staircase.
‘People were in great panic, they were rushing downstairs. Some used lifts to go down. There were many crying and shouting children.
‘Daniil and I began to go down. Dima was somewhere there behind us, adults were running and pushing away children and smashing into them. The crowd at the staircase was panicking too, but men tried to calm everybody down, saying – ‘no panic, calm down, all of us will get down!’
‘Someone slipped and fell, others immediately helped him to stand up. When we got to the second floor, Dima called and asked where we were. When he understood that we almost got down, he decided to go back and grab our coats.
‘He was on the third floor. He went back to the cloakroom but he could see nothing. A staff member was there in panic. She did not know what to do, some man was shouting that his kids were in one of the cinemas.
A woman reacts after laying flowers for the victims of a fire in a multi-story shopping center in the Siberian city of Kemerovo
Women cry as crowds gather to pay their respects to the victims of the devastating blaze that ripped through a mall in Siberia
‘Dima found somebody’s hat, wetted it and tried to go back to the hall to rescue people. But the smoke was so harsh that the wet hat did not really help him.
‘Give me a gas mask?’ – Dima asked the panicking guard but he did not say a word. So his attempt to get to those kids was vain.
‘It was impossible to do it without equipment. And Dima knew that he had already breathed in a lot of smoke then, he decided to go down and look for us.
‘We were already at the ground floor. Having got to the almost safe place, I began to realise what we escaped from. Daniil was crying – ‘Where is my dad? Will my dad die?’
‘I calmed him down and we headed to the exit of the shopping centre. Smoke was already on the ground floor, through the ventilation system, our eyes were full of tears and we had a tickling feeling in our throats.
‘We understood that we could not wait for Dima there, we could have got poisoned, so we went to the parking to find our car. We got into the car and Daniil once again was in hysteria, he was crying, we were in the car and dad was somewhere inside this hell. I failed to calm him this time.
‘Finally, Dima appeared in the doors of the mall. He looked poisoned with smoke… he smelled all of smoke.
‘There was a jam of cars on the way out from the parking, people rushed out instead of letting fire engines drive closer.
Pictured: Inside the mall after the devastating blaze tore through it
‘They were saving their cars. Smoke was coming out of the windows at the 3rd and 4th level and soon we saw the flame. It became almost impossible to breath even in the car.
‘We managed to drive out… now, reading the recent news, we understand how lucky we were. Those poor kids who remained in there.
‘Dima is punishing himself that he could not reach them… these poor little angels…’
Anna filmed a video once she and her son – aged around seven – got near the exit. But she then asked in her Instagram posting the questions that so many locals want answered by officials in Kemerovo.
They are also questions relevant to Russia hosting the World Cup – if safety measures and procedures are so inept.
‘I have lots of questions in my head,’ she said. ‘What for? Why did those kids suffer in such a way?
‘Why were people not evacuated in an normal way? Where were those in charge of this? Why did the fire alarm not work? Why did not they stop the movie and switch on the lights? How could scared kids get out in the dark and when it was hard to breath? Why did fire system work? Where was the foam or powder or what should fall from the ceiling?
‘Why were those firefighters running around the building instead of immediately going upstairs to the place of fire in their gas masks and costumes? Why did they not take out their blankets when they saw a child about to jump at the window?
‘Why did they let him die?’ – in fact he is in a coma and expected to survive, but his family perished. Why did evacuation start in the corner opposite to the area on fire? Why??? Only questions, and we will not hear any answers.
‘Somehow, they allowed this shopping centre (to be built and to operate) with all these serious faults.’
One security guard, meanwhile, said lighted candles were on a table in the play area for a celebration moments before the fire started.
Another said: ‘People were panicking. The elevators were working.
‘Fire alarm did not work at all. There was no water, no fire alarm.
Fifteen fire teams, including 60 firemen, were at the scene of the accident, where some 1,500 square metres of the mall was ablaze
Local residents are seen by the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping centre in Prospekt Lenina Street hit by fire
Firefighters are shown battling the fire at the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping centre in Prospekt Lenina Street where up to a hundred people are feared dead
‘They came to test it not long ago, I remember. And I know that lifts should have been blocked, but they were working, so it was a total failure.
‘All were shouting and running. I went to rescue the children. I was just grabbing them and taking [them] out. I don’t know how many, ten, 15, I was just running here and there while it was possible to breath.’
Local MP for Kemerovo Anton Gorelkin said there were no fire alarms. Pictured: Vilena Chernikova, 11, who is missing after the blaze
The fire is believed to have started in a foam-filled play area inside the building which ‘went up like gunpowder’ before igniting a number of bouncy castles.
The carnage is one of the greatest tragedies in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union 27 years ago.
Initial reports suggested it was caused by arson, claiming a child had a cigarette lighter inside a foam pit.
‘The fire started from the trampoline room’ – a children’s zone in the complex,’ said deputy governor Vladimir Chernov.
‘The preliminary theory is that one of the children had a cigarette lighter.
‘The fire started right in the foamed trampoline pool, which flared up like gunpowder.’
Earlier reports from officials had failed to make clear the scale of the tragedy.
The fire will come as a severe blow to Vladimir Putin exactly one week after his landslide election victory.
He is currently facing a mounting diplomatic crisis over the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury as western countries fall into line behind Britain.
Putin, before heading to the city himself, sent his ‘heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims and wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured’.
Pope Francis said in a telegram to Putin that he is ‘deeply saddened’ by the loss of life. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel both issued condolences to Russia, with Merkel quoted as telling Putin: ‘We grieve with you.’
British prime minister Theresa May also offered her sympathy to the Russian people.
Left: Sergey Maneshkin, 11, who is also missing after the blaze. Right: Sergey Chernikov, 30, who is missing together with daughter Vilena, 11
Veronika Ponushkova, 11, has not been heard from since the fire. Witnesses say there was no fire alarm in the centre that caught light
Videos show a jumper smashing into an awning over a door on the way down as onlookers screamed. The person is believed to have died from the fall
Veronika Ponushkova and Viktoria Pochankina, 11, are missing after the fire, which is feared to have killed up to 100 people
The complex also hosts a zoo with rabbits, foxes, deer, wild pigs, goats, ferrets, meerkats, squirrels, hamsters and tortoises. About 200 animals are thought to have died in the blaze
The shopping complex is also home to a zoo, where all 200 of the animals are expected to have died.
Among them are rabbits, foxes, deer, wild pigs, goats, ferrets, meerkats, squirrels, hamsters and tortoises from a zoo inside the complex.
Director of the mall’s pet zoo, Evgeny Videman, said he expected all his 200 animals had died.
Pictured: Diana Nizovskya, 11, one of the children missing after the blaze
‘I think they were suffocated and died because I was the last to leave. There were no people left in the zoo.
‘There was a strong smoke on the third floor, people were panicking on the side stairs.
‘I just closed the doors. It was physically impossible to get the animals out. I am a vet and I guess that the animals are already choked with smoke.’
Eyewitness Alexander Dorogov said: ‘Two floors went up in smoke in five minutes. The children’s play area in the centre was engulfed in smoke in two minutes.
‘The smoke was so thick that you couldn’t see a stretched out hand. When firefighters came, two people had already jumped out of windows.
‘We found some carpet to hold out and catch one of them.’
Fifteen fire teams, including 60 firemen were scrambled to the scene, where some 1,500 square metres of the mall was ablaze.
Videos show a jumper smashing into an awning over a door on the way down as onlookers screamed. The person is believed to have died from the fall.
Another shopper also jumped and was reported by witnesses to have survived when they were caught by people below.
Around 100 people were evacuated and 20 were rescued from the flames. Parents were seen on videos ushering their children away from the scene.