MOSCOW, April 2. /TASS/. Firefighters and emergency workers who participated in the operation to combat the Zhimnaya Vishnya shopping mall fire in the Siberian city of Kemerovo completely fulfilled their duty, Russian Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov told TASS.
"Firefighters and emergency workers who combatted the Zimnyaya Vishnya fire, completely fulfilled their duty without the slightest thought about their own safety," said Puchkov, who coordinated the activities of firefighters and emergency workers at the fire site and later held numerous meetings with the family members of the fire victims. "The fire spread very quickly, engulfing 1,500 square meters, the firefighters hardly had time to retreat. There was a risk that the walls will come down and bury emergency workers and firefighters," the minister added.
"In spite of the danger, firefighters moved forward to search the premises," Puchkov said. High temperatures and toxic fumes were an additional challenge. "But they completely fulfilled their duty," the minister stressed.
According to the Emergencies Ministry, more than 700 people were evacuated from the burning shopping center, over 20 people were saved. "However, a large number of people died, including kids, and it is our common grief. It is not always possible to save everyone. We share the pain of those who lost their loved ones… Our hearts weep, but no one will ever see rescue workers shed a tear," Puchkov said.
He emphasized the need to make every possible effort to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. "The Emergencies Ministry every day fights fires, disasters and the recklessness of others. We suffer losses, there have already been losses in 2018," Puchkov noted.
The operation to extinguish the Kemerovo shopping mall fire involved more than 840 people and around 200 pieces of equipment.
A fire broke out on the top floor of the Zimnyaya Vishnya (or Winter Cherry), a four-story shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo on March 25, eventually engulfing an area of 1,500 square meters. The catastrophic inferno claimed the lives of 64 people, including 41 children.