The public-address system had been turned off and exits illegally blocked during the horrific fire at a Russian mall that left at least 64 people dead, many of them children, investigators say. Authorities looking into the fire in the Siberian city of Kemerovo say a security guard turned off the PA system after being told of the fire, Reuters reports. It was unclear why, and they plan to bring him in for questioning. In addition, a criminal investigation has been opened; four people have been detained so far, including fire safety technicians at the mall and the owner of the business where the fire started, the BBC reports. Investigators also plan to bring in the mall's owner for questioning. "Serious violations took place when the mall was being built and when it was functioning," says a spokesperson for Russia's Investigative Committee. The cause of the fire remains unclear.
Video shows people trapped inside the mall attempting to break down a fire exit door. There are also reports that a fire extinguisher did not work when the blaze initially broke out, that fire alarms stayed silent and sprinklers didn't come on, and that security guards kept children from escaping down staircases. An unofficial list circulating on Russian media says more than 20 children died. Heartbreaking details from inside the mall are starting to come out: "We are burning. I love you all. This is perhaps farewell," a 13-year-old girl said on a mobile phone message. A father who lost all three of his daughters says they called to say they were trapped inside a theater as it filled with smoke and the doors were locked. When he tried to save them, rescuers wouldn't give him a respiratory mask. "My daughters were left to burn because of their bloody rules." (Read more Russia stories.)