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Horror Stories Emerge from Russian Mall Inferno; Putin Visits; Officials Underestimate Deaths

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A makeshift memorial overflowing with flowers, stuffed animals and pictures of lost loved ones stands outside the Winter Cherry Entertainment complex in Kemerovo one day after a deadly inferno ripped through the upper floors killing at least 64.

President Vladimir Putin traveled to Kemerovo lying a wreath at the memorial and visiting survivors. His indignation over the escalating death toll and building code violations was visible.

"What is happening here?" he said, after laying a wreath. "This is no battle or an unexpected methane outburst in a mine. People, children came to relax. We are talking about demography and are losing so many people because of what? Because of criminal negligence, sloppiness," the BBC reported.

A growing demonstration, lasting over seven hours, with survivors showing a range of emotions from shocked silence to desperate sobs, as they held pictures of loved ones, many children, who are believed to have died.

Social media postings from local resident indicate more than 300 dead.

Families Demand Answers

Choking back tears, survivor Igor Vostrikov, a local businessman and one of some affluence in the town, was accused, not unlike the Parkland school shooting survivors, of trying to gain publicity and some level of notoriety as he challenged continue to speak to any who would listen. He lost his wife, sister and three young children, ages two, five and seven who were in one of the two movie theaters that had locked exit doors.


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In a complex the size of Winter Cherry, one expects on any given Sunday it would be filled and from all accounts the theaters, where the concentration of dead have been found, were filled. On this Sunday, children from Treshchevsky on a school trip celebrating a week long winter break were watching the weekend release "Sherlock Gnomes."

Viktoria Pochankina, a beautiful 11-year-old girl, alone with her classmates, telephoned home at 4:11pm.." "She called me at 4:11 p.m. the last time and told me that everything was in flames, and that the doors were blocked in the cinema, and that she cannot get out," Viktoria's aunt, Yevgeniya Oganesyan, told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. "I told her: Vika, take off your clothes and take them to your nose, breathe through your clothes," Ms. Oganesyan said. "She told me, 'Tell Mummy that I loved her,'" the New York Times reported.

Vilena Chernikova, also 11 and also beautiful, from neighboring Treshchevsky, made one final posting on her social media Facebook style account, "I love myself and my family."

Mourners have posted messages of condolences. In the same thread local residents indicate 300 have died in the fire.

The Death Toll

The death toll in Russia's Winter Cherry Entertainment and Shopping complex remains at 64, with 85 still missing, 41 of them children. Teachers are assisting in compiling lists of students that haven't been heard from in the last 28 hours.

Horror stories have filled the media, each as equally sad and heart wrenching as the other.

Children from a nearby town, Treshchevsky, celebrating the beginning of Winter break, a family of five, three young sisters, all watching "Sherlock Gnomes" when 15 minutes into the film, at about 4:11PM, the theater began to fill with a thick, black, heavy smoke, almost instantaneously making it impossible to see.

The two theaters with locked exits were reportedly at capacity. Ticket sales, which can be pinpointed in exactness, will help to confirm the number of lives lost inside the theaters.

CCTV Shows Explosion

The fire began on the fourth floor in what was called the Trampoline room, filled with bounce houses and cushion ball jungle gyms, with a visible burst shown on Mall CCTV.

The video of the children's entertainment area, which shows the bright colorful games, an arcade style outer room, and in less than four seconds, people began running out of the Trampoline room, with pockets of fire in the background. A mother helping her daughter, one of the first to leave the room, can be seen in the forefront of the tape, when they were blacked out from the smoke which blacked out any view.

The thick, black choking smoke, which overcame the arcade in 20 seconds pushed through to the three movie theaters also on the 4th Floor. Rushing to the exits, panic and hysteria took over as the exits were blocked and suddenly what started as a family outing, a celebration, a fun afternoon, became a death trap.

Families have recounted the cold terror that cut through them as they spoke with their children for what would be the last time. Social media postings of children expressing love for their families, parents and themselves.


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Several video's have been posted of a father running into the fire, trying to break through a door that was blocked to save his three daughters.

Another video of a child, a boy, 11, crawling out a window and falling four stories has been confirmed as authentic. The child was hospitalized, and put into a coma. He lost his entire family, mother, father and sister.

Authorities suspect the fire started in the Trampoline room, which is adjacent to the movie theaters. Two theaters had blocked exits, one did not. All escaped from the theater with available fire exits. All died in the other two.

Survivors explained there was no notification, no alarm, as one security guard turned it off after it began to sound.

The inferno, burned for 19 hours, with more than 600 firefighters and emergency services personal on sight.

Parents understanding the devastation and need for urgency have complained firefighters were slow to respond and unable to commit to a plan of action.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Wednesday as a National Day of Mourning.

 

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