Relatives of Siberia blaze dead condemn firefighters' 'inaction'

Kemerovo (Russia) (AFP) - Relatives of some of the 64 people who died in the Kemerovo shopping centre fire in Siberia have lodged complaints with prosecutors alleging inaction by firefighters at the scene as new details emerged of the tragedy.

Several people have submitted complaints "against emergency services and law enforcement officers," a spokesman for regional prosecutors told Interfax news agency on Thursday.

"In their view, due to the inaction of firefighters and police, people were killed; they lacked the necessary equipment and skills," the spokesman said.

Forty-one of the dead in the shopping mall were children.

"The prosecutors received these complaints and are working on them. Now they will question relatives of the dead and establish the timeline of events," a local activist, Maxim Uchvatov, told AFP.

Investigators will look into the firefighting equipment and the timing of events, using cell phone records, said Uchvatov, who had lost distant relatives in the fire.

Among those to complain were couple Nadezhda Vostrikova and Igor Sabadash, who lost a daughter, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren in the blaze, reported RBK daily.

- 'We can't help you' -

Vostrikova wrote that her daughter Alyona phoned to say that they were locked in the cinema, the lights had gone out and a fire had started.

She said that she ran to the top floor of the mall, where the cinema was located and found four firefighters who said they could not go in.

"I fell on my knees and started begging: 'Guys, save my children,' to which they answered indifferently: 'We can't help you at all. We're waiting for a brigade of rescuers," she wrote in her complaint.

Her husband said in his complaint that the firefighters said they lacked safety equipment.

Vostrikova wrote: "I consider the work of firefighters in the first hour as inaction and indifference to human life."

She said she received her first call from her daughter at 4.05 pm local time (0905 GMT) and at 12 minutes past she heard her daughter's last words: "Mum, I'm dying. I love you."

"There are still questions about how the fire was extinguished," another family member, Igor Vostrikov, said in a video statement shown on state television.

"As far as I know, they started extinguishing flames on the roof after one and a half hours and the firefighters arrived at the building after 40 minutes."

Vostrikov said he had been shown closed-circuit camera footage by investigators which revealed that cinema doors were not locked when the fire broke out and were closed afterwards.

Previously investigators said the cinema doors had been locked, apparently to keep out those without tickets.

Vostrikov said most cinema-goers ran out but his family and others were slower and when they reached the exit, the corridor was full of thick smoke.

"Some man took a decision to lock the door, block up chinks and wait for rescuers. But as you know, rescuers didn't come," he said.