Death toll in massive Russia shopping mall blaze rises to 11

MOSCOW (AFP) - The death toll after a massive fire ripped through a shopping mall in Russia rose to 11 on Friday, as rescue workers combed through the rubble for victims, local officials said.

"Eleven bodies have been found," Mr Andrei Rodygin, spokesman for the emergencies ministry in Tatarstan told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Officials had announced the deaths of a woman and four men on Thursday after the blaze destroyed the three-storey building in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan some 800km east of Moscow. The Emergency Situations Ministry said on Thursday up to 25 people were still missing and it could take several days to comb through the masses of debris.

Mr Rodygin said rescue workers had pulled a cat alive from the debris on Friday.

The fire engulfed the centre on Wednesday afternoon, and some 500 police officers were deployed as panicked shop owners pushed past a security cordon into the burning centre in a bid to save their merchandise.

A total of 650 shoppers were rescued from the centre. Of those who had sought medical help 16 remained hospitalised, regional health authorities said.

Tatarstan prosecutors called for the arrest of the head of a company that rented the premises for failing to properly evacuate people, and handed the case to the Investigative Committee, which investigates major cases in Russia reports directly to President Vladimir Putin.