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Fire in Russian Mall Causes Protests

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On Sunday, March 25, a fire on the fourth floor of a local shopping mall 2,000 miles east of Moscow killed 64 people, 41 of them children.  It was around 4 pm when the smoke began filling the building, but no fire alarms sounded. Panicked children and parents ran to the emergency door exits but found them blocked.

With no way out of the building, many turned to their phones to call family members for a last goodbye.

“She called me and told me that everything was in flames, and that she cannot get out…tell Mummy I loved her,”  said Viktoria Pochankina’s aunt, Yevgeniya Oganesyan, told a local newspaper. Viktoria was an 11-year-old girl who was on a class trip to the Siberian mall.

Others who couldn’t get in contact with their family members took their stories to social media.

“We are burning, perhaps this is goodbye,” a 13-year-old named Maria posted on her social media account, according to the ­Rossiya-24 television channel.

“This kind of incident just really breaks your heart, and makes you feel awful inside,” said Mr. Spring.

The incident triggered mass protests outside of the mall, and across the country Tuesday morning. The crowd of nearly 4,000 people was not only extremely sad at the loss of their loved ones, but also angry, as the tragedy could have been avoided with proper safety precautions.  With political corruption looming in the air, protesters called for the resignation of the regional governor, Aman Tuleyev, and Kemerovo Mayor Ilya Seredyuk, who they believed could have been behind the failures of the security system.

Local news sources have confirmed that the fire alarms did not ring because a security guard had switched them off earlier, but the exits were blocked for an unknown reason. Four people have been detained for questioning in the case, including the director of a company that rents the mall’s top two floors.

Even though Russian leaders claimed to not be at the will of the people, Aman Tulayev, the regional governor, resigned one week later, saying over video: “With such a heavy burden, it’s impossible to work as the governor. It’s morally impossible.”

“If something like that were to have happened here, I’m pretty sure the mall would have immediately been shut down and everyone involved questioned. Even though Russia’s atmosphere is very different from the US, hearing about the protesters demanding justice gives you hope,” said Emily Moore, Senior.

Vladimir Putin declared a national day of mourning for the victims on Tuesday.

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Fire in Russian Mall Causes Protests