The President spoke with Ivan Zavarzin, 18, who leapt down from the fourth floor during the fire. The young man was in the shopping mall with his father. He said that in the first minutes of the fire, many people could not believe in the reality of what was happening, thinking it was a fire drill. Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova reported that the young man’s father is alive, and Ivan is also on the mend.
The President also met with Andrei Sergeyev, 35, Alexander Kalachev, 21, and Nikolai Lobikov, 42, who helped evacuate the people from the shopping mall in the first minutes of the fire.
The head of state wished all the victims a speedy recovery and shook their hands.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Konstantin Sivoronov, head of the acute toxic exposure department: Emergencies Ministry employee Andrei Sergeyev took part in the relief efforts. He suffered burns and a light toxic effect of combustion products.
Vladimir Putin: Did you inhale a lot?
Andrei Sergeyev: Bit off more than I could chew, I wanted to do more to help.
Konstantin Sivoronov: He is recovering well and will be released soon.
Andrei Sergeyev: Yes, I am feeling better now.
Vladimir Putin: Didn’t you have a respirator?
Andrei Sergeyev: Certainly, we had our protective gear. But I spent 11 hours there in the fire. It’s nothing, though.
Vladimir Putin: How do you assess the situation as a professional? What were the problems there?
Andrei Sergeyev: The most obvious problem was that the area was huge. It was impossible to get to the source of fire in such conditions. And it was very hard for the people who were there to get to evacuation corridors, because the smoke moves much faster. Plastic, which is now used everywhere, burns with a black smoke and people could not orient themselves. A person who is there for the first time simply does not know where to run.
Vladimir Putin: They did not know where to go.
Andrei Sergeyev: That’s right. So, people went to a dead end and could not escape. They could not see anything in that black smoke. Even us, with our special gear, we did not see much and oriented ourselves by touch. Such huge areas pose a huge problem; I think it should be prohibited to build such vast spaces.
Vladimir Putin: For these purposes.
Andrei Sergeyev: People will not be able to leave them fast enough regardless of the number of exits. Moreover, the exits were not open for some reason.
Vladimir Putin: Did you have to break down the doors?
Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova: They tried to steer the people towards the centre.
Andrei Sergeyev: After the fire was put out, we went there to search for people. We still had hope.
Vladimir Putin: You searched the rooms?
Andrei Sergeyev: Of course. As soon as we could enter a room, when the danger was past and the temperature was down, we went there step by step. And when we got there, we saw this problem.
Vladimir Putin: Get well soon.
Konstantin Sivoronov: This is Alexander Kalachev, an employee of the shopping mall. He took part in evacuating people; he works there himself. He was admitted with a light burn of throat. He is recovering fast and will be released soon without long-term consequences for his health.
Vladimir Putin: What did you do?
Alexander Kalachev: I evacuated people from the third floor. Well, not really evacuated them, just guided them towards a place from which it was easy to leave the building.
Vladimir Putin: Carbon monoxide poisoning?
Alexander Kalachev: Well, yes. I was the last to leave, so I inhaled a bit.
Vladimir Putin: Get well.
Alexander Kalachev: Thank you.
Konstantin Sivoronov: This is Nikolai Lobikov, he was on the fourth floor. His condition is a bit more serious, but he is still recovering.
Vladimir Putin: Also inhaled a lot?
Konstantin Sivoronov: Yes, but he did not lose consciousness.
Nikolai Lobikov: I am recovering fast.
Vladimir Putin: Get better.