Tajikistan celebrates its Kemerovo heroes
A group of Tajik employees at the mall may have saved dozens of lives with their cool evacuation.
A group of laborers from Tajikistan who saved dozens of lives during the deadly blaze in the city of Kemerovo, Russia, are being hailed as heroes back home.
When the fire broke out on March 25, the five Tajik mall employees quickly began coordinating and ensuring as smooth an evacuation as possible, according to media accounts.
“From the moment we learned about the fire to the time we started evacuating people, it was at most 10 minutes. There were a lot of people,” Farzon Salimov, one of the men, who worked as assistants in a shoe shop in the mall, told Dushanbe's Asia-Plus newspaper. “The guys then helped people in wheelchairs who were waiting at the lifts. Then [rescue workers] came into the building and told us to leave immediately. We quickly closed up the store. We couldn’t take anything out with us.”
There are conflicting accounts of how many lives may have been saved thanks to the evacuation efforts of the men — anywhere from 50 to several hundred.
Social media users in Tajikistan have heaped praise on their compatriots, calling for their government and that of Russia to bestow the men with medals of honor.
“I am so proud of our guys. Our guys saved the children from Kemerovo. Thank you to their parents,” wrote one Facebook user, Rano Ahmedova.
“What great guys. They didn’t stand by and look on as everything was going on. Thank you! Fearless Tajik young men!” wrote another, Muattar Alidjanova.
Salimov has played down the praise.
“We acted according to our conscience and faith. We couldn’t just leave without helping people. Now they are making heroes of us, but we just did our duty,” he said.
March 28 was declared a national day of mourning in Russia for the 64 people — 41 of whom were children aged between 10 and 12 years old — who died in the fire. A group of Dushanbe residents also held an impromptu gathering in the city to mark their respects. After observing a minute of silence, they released 100 white balloons.
Members of the public have been leaving flowers and toys at the Russian Embassy in Dushanbe and the Russian consulate in Khujand.