Salesman and guard of shoeshop saved 50 in Kemerovo fire

Salesman and guard of shoeshop saved 50 in Kemerovo fire
Mahmud Khudozhaev and Farzon Salilov Photo: Life

The men got their positions in the shoe store about two weeks ago and what they had not expected at all was the nightmare they would have to go through.

Mahmud Khudozhaev and Farzon Salilov were employees of one of the stores in the Kemerovo shopping center Zimnyaya Vishnya ("Winter Cherry"). They saved dozens of people during the fire, according to LifeShot. No one could have fathomed the scale of the tragedy at first: the blaze started on the fourth floor, and only smoke was seen on the second floor, which, however, spread very fast.

The men had worked in the mall for about two weeks, in a recently opened shoe store. One of them, Mahmud Khudozhaev, was a security guard, and the other one, Farzon Salilov, a manager.

Sunday, March 25th. The store is crowded. The men saw that the hall was beginning to fill with smoke. Then a siren went off in the warehouse, although it was not loud. The public address system of the shopping center was silent, which did not make sense since there had been two fire drills just a week before, when all the employees were asked to vacate the building and stay outside for five minutes.

“We saw people running back and forth on the second floor, panicking. We thought we should get out of the outlet, too. When we saw there was a crowd, were opened an emergency exit through our store. We got out only when we saw the building was filled with smoke completely”, Salilov recalls.

There were children with their parents, people in wheelchairs among those trying to get out. They all wanted to be saved, they were begging. They kept evacuating until they could do it no more: eyes dimmed, a lump in the throat.

Then the mall security guards came running and said the door should be closed and evacuation was urgent, but lots of people had managed to use the store door to get outside before that.

By that time the whole building had been filled with smoke. The men reasoned that it was useless to rush to get the fire extinguisher at that point, since the smoke was coming from above. It was high time they saved themselves.

“We wanted to go upstairs, but it was impossible. The thick smoke kept coming, people were screaming and running back and forth. There were young people running upstairs in a panic and we had to stop them. Some were screaming, others did not know where to run”.

No more than five minutes passed from the moment the fire started to the moment when the mall was filled with a pungent black smoke. When they left the building, they heard sirens of rescuers. A woman next to them was weeping and said her husband and children were still in the mall.

The men turned around and saw a man and a boy jumping out of the windows on different sides of the shopping center, trying to save themselves from the terrible fire. Eyewitnesses were trying to catch them, but what could untrained people do in a situation like this? One of the jumpers, 11-year-old Sergei Moskalenko, does not know yet that he has lost his entire family in the blaze.

The fire in Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping center, Kemerovo, happened on March 25. According to the latest data, 64 people were killed, more than half of them children.

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