11yo survivor of Kemerovo mall fire tragically learns his whole family died
The boy’s parents and his sister died in the massive Sunday fire in the Siberian city of Kemerovo. The blaze, which engulfed the Winter Cherry shopping mall when dozens of children were playing and visiting the cinema, proved to be one of Russia’s most deadly fires in the past decade.
While the heartbreaking story of the injured 11-year-old boy soon surfaced in the media, it took several days before anyone, including his relatives and doctors, dared to tell him the grueling news, Anna Portnova, Moscow’s chief adolescent psychiatrist, said.
“They couldn’t handle themselves out of fear to see the child’s severe reaction, they didn’t know what words to choose,” said Portnova, who has been helping people who lost their loved ones in the blaze. Finally, professional psychologists informed the boy of his loss: “Today, after long preparations, we chose the right manner and tactics of talking to him.”
The psychiatrist acknowledged that the 11-year-old “reacted in a way every child would do – he cried.” After realizing that everyone in his family had died, he was still able to carry on, Portnova said, adding that he did not bottle himself up but started talking and asking about his future.
The blaze broke out on Sunday afternoon and quickly spread through the top floor of the busy mall, engulfing a children’s playground, ice-skating rink, and cinema. In the middle of the inferno, the boy’s father pushed his child out of a window moments before suffocating in the toxic smoke.
The boy survived the fire, but it also came at a cost. Doctors had to deal with numerous burns, as well as injuries to his liver, heart, kidney and lungs. The latter was the most damaged – the boy was connected to ventilation for at least a day, according to RIA Novosti.
At the end of the day, a glimmer of hope came – a regional children’s ombudsman said the young survivor will not be left alone, as one of his grannies will get guardianship over the child.
Portnova said psychological relief should be given to not only children, but also their closest relatives who are unable to cope with the situation. “Here, our mission is to help deal with sorrow and learn to help the child.”
It is still unclear what caused the fire. Witnesses told Russian media that fire alarms in the shopping mall were not activated, and it was later revealed that the emergency exits that led out of the building were locked. As of Saturday, seven people, including Winter Cherry managers and local officials, were arrested in connection with the fire.
The death toll from the Kemerovo mall fire makes it one of the worst in recent Russian history. In 2009, 156 people died in a fire in a nightclub in the Siberian city of Perm, while a 2013 fire at a psychiatric hospital in Ramensky, a village outside of Moscow, claimed 38 lives.