Children among 64 people killed in Siberian mall fire

MOSCOW At least 64 people were killed by a fire that engulfed a busy shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, Russian investigators said yesterday, and some of the dead were children.

The fire, one of the deadliest in Russia since the break-up of the Soviet Union, swept through the upper storeys of the Winter Cherry shopping centre on Sunday afternoon where a cinema complex and children's play area were located.

Emergency services announced they had extinguished the blaze but later said it reignited, and that rescuers were struggling to reach the upper storeys because the roof had collapsed.

Eleven people were being treated in hospital, including an 11-year-old boy in a serious condition.

Investigators said that a security guard had turned off the fire alarm system and that exits had been illegally blocked.

The Interfax news agency cited an unnamed local official as saying the main theory was that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit.

But it quoted Mr Vladimir Chernov, the region's deputy governor, as saying that the blaze started when a child set fire to the foam on a trampoline in a play area using a lighter.