Pope Francis has sent a telegramme of condolences following a deadly fire which swept through a shopping and entertainment complex in south western Siberia.
Russian investigators on Monday confirmed that 64 people had died, many of them children. The Winter Cherry complex in the city of Kemerovo was a popular destination for families and was packed with visitors on Sunday when the fire broke out. Local media said smoke and flames engulfed a children's trampoline room and a cinema on the fourth floor.
Fire exits blocked
Witnesses said emergency exits were blocked and officials are searching for a security officer who is suspected of turning off a Public Announcement system after he was alerted to the blaze. Four people have been detained for questioning, including the owner of the complex and the head of the company that manages the shopping centre.
Prayers and condolences
In the telegramme, signed by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis says he is “deeply saddened” and “offers heartfelt condolences to all those affected by this tragedy”. He offers prayers for all who mourn, as well as his “spiritual closeness to authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the injured and continue their search for the missing.
The pope says he entrusts all the deceased to the merciful love of God and he concludes the message by invoking upon all the Lord’s blessings of peace and consolation.
Please see below the full text of the telegramme:
His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the fire which struck the Winter Cherry complex in Kemerovo, and he offers heartfelt condolences to all those affected by this tragedy. Entrusting the deceased, especially the many children who lost their lives, to the merciful love of God Almighty, His Holiness offers the assurance of his prayers for all who mourn their loss. With the assurance of his spiritual closeness to the authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the injured and continue their search for the missing, Pope Francis invokes upon all the divine blessings of peace and consolation.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State