Russian mall fire: Putin arrives as Keremovo residents protest

World Today

Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers in tribute to the victims of a fire at a shopping centre in Kemerovo on March 27, 2018. At least 53 bodies have been recovered from a fire that swept through a busy shopping centre in an industrial city in Siberia, Russian news agencies said. Many people are also still missing from the blaze that broke out on March 25, in the city of Kemerovo, the agencies quoted emergency services as saying. A previous toll put the number of dead at 37 with nearly 70 missing, including 40 children. (AFP PHOTO / Alexey DRUZHININ)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday visited the scene of a shopping mall fire that killed at least 64 people, including 40 children.

Putin’s visit came as thousands protested against those responsible for not preventing it.

CGTN’s Dan Ashby reports.

In the city of Keremovo, thousands joined together to both mourn and express their anger.

“I was talking to her on the phone. She cried ‘I’m here, dad, here,’” one father described. “I cried. I was crying to my daughter. She said: ‘Dad, I love you. I’m suffocating, I’m losing consciousness.’”

Protesters accused the authorities of not publishing the true death toll, and raised questions about why victims’ families must sign non-disclosure documents.

Authorities insist the death toll is right, and they are just following procedures. Five people have already been arrested.

“The first emotion when hearing about the number of dead and dead children is not to cry, but to wail,” President Vladimir Putin said at a hospital. “And then when you listen to what has been said here, speaking honestly, other emotions arise.”

Those emotions were on full display.

“We live in the 21st century, but such absurd situations happen anyway, and adults and children die,” one person said. “Because of negligence, because of money – suddenly they are on the same line as human life.”

Teddy bears, flowers and messages of grief are being left in Keremovo, Moscow and across all of Russia. But many also come with a question: how on earth could so many people be burned to death again?

The tragedy was not the first time dozens have died under similar circumstances, which has made the calls for answers even louder. Those answers of course, will not stop the grief in a country that will observe a national day of mourning on Wednesday.