Written By: Natalie Williams & Sara Robinson
On March 25, a tragic fire at the Winter Cherry Mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo killed over sixty-four people. At approximately 5:00 p.m., the fire began on the fourth floor of the mall that contained a movie theater, ice skating rink, and entertainment center for children. Forty-one of the victims were young children and families; a devastating loss. Officials have discovered that the likely cause of this fire is from trampoline foam rubber that caught on fire. Quickly, the flames from the foam rubber spread and engulfed the building in flames. The fire was still raging at midnight, seven hours after the first spark as firefighters fought to contain it and rescue whoever they could.
The reason for the massive number of deaths was that the fire alarms were turned off and the doors were locked, trapping the victims in. At first, there was a criminal investigation to determine the cause of this fire, but officials quickly and mysteriously determined that a child’s lighter set off the initial sparks. Witnesses report seeing some victims jumping out of the building to escape the unbearable heat. Outside the regional government building in the city of Kemerovo, protesters gathered in anger and confusion in the days following this disaster.
Russians across the country are banding together to keep asking the questions that are being shrouded in mystery. In Moscow as well as countless other cities, Russian citizens are expressing their grief over the tragedy and their upset at President Vladimir Putin as well as local representatives for not commencing a time of national mourning for the victims. President Putin was also under attack for the sizable amount of time he let pass before publicly reacting and addressing the tragedy. Many Russians believe that authorities are hiding the true severity of the disaster, and keeping public information out of sight.
Still left without answers, the Russians grieve for the lives lost but also keep asking the important questions: What really happened? Why is there no one taking responsibility? What is being hidden, and why? While President Vladimir Putin calls this event a result of “a criminal negligence” and “sloppiness”, protesters cover the streets demanding explanation and justice for the victims who were lost in the fire. The importance in the public reaction to this event lies in that instead of taking the excuses and the authorities dancing around placing any responsibility or reasons, these people demanded answers and justice for the children’s lives lost in the deadly fire that blazed through the Siberian mall.