RUSSIA MALL FIRE Protesters demand officials’ ouster


Associated Press

MOSCOW

Fuming with anger, thousands of Russians rallied for more than 10 hours Tuesday in a Siberian city, demanding the ouster of regional officials for a shopping mall fire that killed at least 64 people.

President Vladimir Putin, on a trip to the city of Kemerovo, scolded officials for neglecting safety rules that could have prevented the tragedy.

The blaze engulfed the Winter Cherry mall in Kemerovo on Sunday, the first weekend of the school recess, trapping dozens of parents and children inside. Witnesses reported that fire alarms were silent and many doors were locked. Many of the victims were children who died in a locked movie theater after making desperate calls for help.

Putin arrived early Tuesday, laying flowers at the makeshift memorial to the victims outside the mall and meeting with officials. He did not show up at the protest in front of the regional government’s headquarters, but met with some demonstrators at the city’s morgue.

Putin noted the highly combustible materials used to convert the mall from a Soviet-era confectionary factory and the absence of a functioning fire safety system, saying that investigators will track down all those responsible.

Emergency officials reported that 58 bodies have been recovered and that rescue workers were still searching for six more.

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