Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed the “criminal negligence” and corruption behind the tragedy in Kemerovo, Russia, where more than 60 people, including many children, perished in a massive blaze.
“The first feeling when they speak about the number of the dead and dead children – you want, not to cry, but wail,” the president said after a meeting with regional authorities on Tuesday.
More than 50 people were injured or suffered from smoke inhalation in the blaze, the casualties made worse by violations in the mall building's construction and management. Investigators have found that emergency exits were blocked, impeding mall-goers' evacuations, and a guard is suspected of having turned off the building's alarms. At least four people have been arrested in connection with the tragedy.
Putin arrived in Kemerovo on Tuesday. Visiting the site of the deadly blaze, he laid flowers at the makeshift memorial set up there by locals, where people have been laying mementos like toys and pictures of the deceased. The president is also expected to get reports from local emergency services and the regional government.
Speaking at a conference in Kemerovo, Putin said negligence and carelessness led to the tragedy.
"What is going on, this isn't warfare, or a sudden methane outburst in a mine. People, children, came there to relax. We talk about demographics, and we lose so many people to what? To criminal negligence, to sloppiness," Putin said.
Putin also implied that corruption was involved, as he called for a thorough investigation. “Every official’s actions need to be legally assessed,” he said. “They’ll sign anything for money.”