Funerals held of Russia mall fire dead

Moscow, March 28 : Russia on Wednesday held the first funerals of those who died in the shopping centre fire in the Siberian city of Kemerovo.

At least 64 people, including 41 children, died in the blaze at the Winter Cherry mall on Sunday. Wednesday was declared a day of national mourning and vigils were held across Russia, Tass news agency reported.

The funerals — for some of the 27 identified victims — included those of a grandmother and two children. A memorial for the victims was organised in Kemerovo, the BBC reported.

Mourners lit candles and laid flowers and toys. One message read: “Children, forgive us.” Several people became emotional during the ceremony in Manezhnaya square.

Flags were flying at half mast and television shows were broadcast showing a black ribbon. In the upper house of Parliament, senators wore black and rose to honour the victims at the beginning of Wednesday’s session.

Entertainment events were cancelled across the region.

Thousands of people protested in Kemerovo on Tuesday amid anger over the alleged failure of the authorities in preventing the blaze as well as accusations of a lack of transparency in the ensuing investigation.

Investigators said the fire alarm was broken and exits blocked and President Vladimir Putin — who visited Kemerovo on Tuesday — blamed “criminal negligence” for the inferno.

Security guards, supposed to help with any emergency evacuation, were reportedly among the first to flee when the fire broke out. Five people have been arrested in connection with the blaze.

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