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Fire in Russian mall kills 64: How can you keep your family safe in a mall fire?

The deadly blaze engulfed the Kemerovo, Russia shopping and entertainment complex during school holidays.

On Sunday, March 25, a mall in Kemerova, Russia was packed with families eager to celebrate the start of the Spring school holidays. 

At around 5:00 in the afternoon, a fire broke out in the crowded shopping centre. 

Families watching children’s movies and kids at play were interrupted when smoke started to fill the establishment. 

Reports say the fire originated on the second floor — some reports say it started because of a cigarette butt thrown in a kids' trampoline room — but the cause has yet to be confirmed. 

What authorities do know is that the devastating fire is one of the most devastating tragedies in the country's history.

The fatal shopping centre fire left 64 dead. As of this writing, 10 people are still missing.

Fire in Russian mall: Children bid families farewell over the phone

fire in russian mall Fire in Russian mall: The blaze engulfed the crowded shopping centre. | Screenshot: BBC

Posts on social media exposed the horrific scene — showing how people leaped from windows as thick smoke billowed from the building.

What's even more heartbreaking are the stories that have surfaced of children bidding their loved ones farewell on the phone. 

Yevgeniya Oganesyan, whose 11-year-old niece was on a class trip in the mall, tells of how her niece called her to say goodbye. 

The young girl said that the doors were blocked in the cinema and she could not get out.

Other families experienced the same horrors. Alakesandr and Olga Lillevyali lamented to the New York Times that their three daughters were trapped inside the cinema. Two of the cinema's ceilings later collapsed. 

Our hearts go out to all the families who have lost loved ones in this tragedy. 

Fire in Russian mall highlights importance of safety for families 

Going to the mall with our families should be a fun, relaxing experience. But even in the comforts of a large shopping complex, tragedy can strike. 

It's important to always make safety a priority.

1. Always know your exits

When entering a mall or any large establishment, play a game with your kid to "spot the nearest exit." This forms the habit of always being alert in the event of an emergency.

2. Check if your exits are working

As this heartbreaking incident showed, there could be emergency exits in place, but they may be locked. Make sure exits can be opened, unless they are alarm-activated by checking or asking mall personnel.

3. Look around for fire safety measures

Malls should have working sprinklers, fire extinguishers or fire hoses in place for firefighters to be able to put out flames.

4. Don't panic

When a fire does break out, keep a cool head. Get out as quickly as you can, but be careful not to open doors with hot knobs as there could be a large fire behind it.

5. Call for help as soon as possible

In Singapore, call 995 as soon as you can to inform them of fire emergencies. Ask for tips on how to evacuate as safely as possible.

6. Evacuate as instructed

Each establishment has their own emergency protocols in place in case of emergency. Make sure to calmly follow instructions if you are evacuated to safety.

7. If trapped, make sure to stay low and search for a way out

If you are caught in a burning room, stay as low as possible. Smoke inhalation kills more people than severe burns in the event of a fire. Try to inhale as little of it as possible.

If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop and roll. You can also remove your clothes to cover your mouth. If you want to run through flames, you can soak a large, thick cloth in water. But this is a risky move that should be done only when there is no other choice.

Make sure your kids know about safety tips every time you visit a mall or any crowded establishment.

 

Sources: BBC, The New York Times

READ THIS ALSO: 7 Fire safety tips that can save your life (based on SCDF recommendations

Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore