‘Tell mom I loved her’: Heart-breaking texts from kids trapped in Siberia mall where scores died
A quiet Sunday afternoon turned into a living hell in a Siberian city when a shopping mall caught fire, killing over 60. “I cannot escape” and “We are burning” were just two of the many chilling messages from those trapped inside.
The tragedy shook Russia’s western Siberian city of Kemerovo on Sunday, just before the beginning of school holidays. The fire started on the top floor of the four-story shopping mall, which housed a cinema that was packed with parents and children at the time of the blaze. It quickly spread throughout the complex. Witnesses say that fire alarms did not work.
“We were sitting in the cinema on the third floor. A woman ran to us and screamed that we should run. Everyone started to run away, me and the children, there were seven of us. When we ran out, no one could help us with anything,” Ekaterina, who was in the cinema with her children, told Ruptly.
The fire eventually engulfed some 1,600 square meters and raged for several hours, leading to a partial collapse of the building. Several hundred people, many of them children, were in the mall at the time.
Blood-curdling reports, images and videos have emerged online, while the death toll has been steadily increasing and had reached 64 people as of Monday afternoon.
Witnesses say that the doors of the cinema were blocked when the fire started, leaving people trapped inside as smoke fillled the room, according to local media.
“I cannot escape,” 12-year-old Vika Pochankina, who was in the cinema with her classmates, told her aunt Evgeniya Oganisyan on the phone, Komsomolskaya Pravda reports.
“Tell mom that I loved her. Tell everybody that I loved them,” the girl said, before hanging up. It is unclear if the girl or any of her classmates survived.
“I still cannot understand how we managed to get out of this flaming trap,” Dmitriy Khoroshavtsev told Komsomolskaya Pravda. He said that there was zero visibility and it was impossible to breathe after the doors of the cinema hall opened and parents were losing their children in the huge, panicking crowd.
As reports emerged of scores of children still missing, a screenshot of a chilling message from a young girl, Maria Morozova, who was at the mall, appeared online. “We are burning. Maybe goodbye,” it read.
Some pictures showed a group of men in the stairway, trying to break through doors as the stairs burned behind them. More footage showed people jumping from windows as thick smoke billowed from inside. The fate of an 11-year-old boy who tried to escape in this way is unclear, but locals told Ruptly that he is in coma.
“He is in an induced coma, his entire body is broken,” a crying woman said on camera, speaking about her friend’s grandson, who she called Sergey. The woman said that his father had apparently pushed the boy out of the window, while he, his wife, and their four-year-old daughter died in the blaze.
“When you read the list of the deceased, you realize that you know all these people,” a young woman, Lyudmila Nagornaya, said. She referred to unofficial lists that have emerged on social media.
On Monday, locals willing to help the injured lined up near blood donation stations. People also gathered in the city to lay flowers and to pay tributes to the victims.
The fire in the shopping mall in Kemerovo has become one of the deadliest in Russia's recent history. In 2009, an inferno in a night club in the city of Perm left more than 150 people dead.