Shopping mall tragedy calls for Russian day of mourning
Julia Lucas, Staff Writer
On March 25, Palm Sunday, an intense and deadly shopping mall fire killed 64 Russian citizens and injured 79 others. Hundreds of people were trapped by the flames and fought to find ways to breathe through the black smoke that surrounded them. Zimnyaya Vishnya, or the Winter Cherry Shopping Mall, located in Kemerovo, Russia, hosted hundreds of people on this tragic day. Unfortunately, the fire was most prominent around the movie theater and children’s play area, where families were spending their time celebrating a school holiday. Out of the 64 confirmed dead, 41 were children, many of whom were at the movie theaters for a class field trip. The children trapped by the fires called their loved ones to say their goodbyes or to beg for help. There have been several reports of relatives talking to reporters about the children’s last words. Some of these children even had social media accounts and posted their goodbyes to the world before they were sadly engulfed by flames and smoke. All of the 64 bodies have since been recovered, and no one has been declared missing.
During a routine investigation, Russian investigators discovered the mall’s fire exits were blocked and the alarm system turned off. Investigators have yet to discover how the fire started, but fire officials have stated that it spread rapidly because of the extremely flammable thermal insulation. It is speculated that a child had a lighter in the children’s play area, which erupted into the fire, but nothing has been confirmed. The fire was confirmed to have started on the fourth floor of the mall, quickly followed by the evacuation of the first floor. As time quickly ran out on upper floors, many made the decision to jump from the fourth level. Many survived the jump, but not everyone.
Not too long after the Kemerovo shopping mall fire, another shopping mall fire erupted in Moscow on April 4. While the Moscow fire had only one casualty and six injuries, there has been an eruption of public opinion on whether or not fire safety codes are up to date. Unfortunately, there is an extremely long list of fires and other natural disasters occurring throughout Russia that many feel could have been avoided with stricter regulations.
After the Kemerovo fire, many Russian citizens have held mass protests against government officials because of the believed cover up. Citizens believe that the number of individuals dead should be in the hundreds, rather than the 64 confirmed. The Russian authorities have stated that this is simply a rumor, but citizens are still furious. Further, Russians are fighting for resignations of certain government officials who they believed should be held responsible for the amount of people killed. They also want a deeper investigation of how the fire started, the speed at which help arrived, and anything that could have been sped up in order to save more lives.
In response to these protests and the disaster, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the Wednesday after to be a day of mourning. It was declared that March 28 would be a day of mourning for the 64 victims of the Kemerovo shopping mall fire. The day of mourning consisted of canceled entertainment programs and Russian state flags to be flown at half-mast. This tragic incident took many lives, most being children, so the public is understandably outraged. The near future will include further investigating of fire codes and regulations, so an accident like this never happens in Russia again.