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37 dead, dozens missing after tragic mall fire in Russia’s Kemerovo

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MOSCOW — At least 37 people have died and dozens other missing in a fire in a shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, Russian news agencies have reported, citing authorities.

State news agency TASS said 69 others were missing, many of them children, and more than 100 people had been evacuated from the complex, which contains cinemas, restaurants and shops.

Several hundred people, including many children, were in the mall at the time. Tragically, some reportedly had left their children unattended in one of the mall’s cinema halls or at the playground.

As rescuers continue to search the burned-out shopping mall, many have been frantically trying to reach their relatives, including children who were in the mall’s cinema or play area when the fire started.

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TASS quoted firefighters as saying 40 of the missing were children, and 43 people were injured in the blaze. It also reported that 13 bodies were found in one of the movie theatres.

Some 37 people were killed in the blaze, the Russian Investigative Committee has confirmed. At least 11 children were among the victims.

Reports from witnesses have described panic as people realized there was a fire spreading, with many saying on social media that there were no fire alarms or loudspeaker warnings, and that people had to find their own way through the top floor of the mall, which was already filled with smoke.

Amid conflicting reports, some have described the source of the fire as the children’s playground, suggesting that the trampoline there caught fire after a child allegedly misused a lighter. Another version suggests that electrical wiring at the playground had short-circuited.

The fire, which broke out on Sunday afternoon, was finally contained some 12 hours later, after engulfing some 1,600 square meters. The building sustained severe damage, its roof and floors partially collapsing.

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Syria ‘accidentally shot down’ Russian spy plane during Israeli attack

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Russia’s defence ministry said one of its military surveillance aircraft with 14 people on board disappeared from radar screens over the Mediterranean at the same time as Israeli and French forces were mounting aerial attacks on targets in Syria.

“Connection has been lost with the crew of a Russian Il-20 plane over the Mediterranean Sea,” the ministry said. Contact was lost at about 23:00 local time (20:00 GMT) on Monday, it added.

There are conflicting reports as to who is responsible for the downing of the aircraft, however the US claims it was accidentally shot down by the Syrian regime’s anti-aircraft artillery after the Syrians came under fire by Israeli missiles.

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A US official said Washington believed the aircraft, the turbo-prop plane used for electronic reconnaissance, was inadvertently shot down by anti-aircraft artillery operated by Moscow’s ally, the Syrian Government.

Russsia’s Defence Ministry said the aircraft was returning to the Russian-run Hmeymim airbase in Latakia province when it disappeared from radar screens at about 11:00pm Moscow time.

The plane was over the Mediterranean Sea about 35 kilometres from the Syrian coastline, Russia’s TASS news agency quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.

The fate of the 14 people on board the missing plane is unknown, and a rescue operation has been organised out of the Hmeymim base, the ministry said.

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