Moscow: Russian rescue workers on Thursday combed through the incinerated rubble of a shopping mall for the bodies of 25 people still missing a day after a fire ripped through the centre, leaving five dead, local officials said.
Rescue workers were clearing the debris after the three-storey building was destroyed in the blaze in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan some 800 kilometres (500 miles) east of Moscow.
"They still have to comb through 8,000 cubic metres of debris," Andrei Rodygin, spokesman for the emergencies ministry in Tatarstan, told AFP.
"It could take several days."
Five people -- a woman and four men -- have been confirmed dead.
Two of the victims are from the impoverished Central Asian nation of Tajikistan, the emergencies ministry said.
He said that the emergencies ministry would not declare the missing dead before it finds their bodies.
Earlier in the day Igor Panshin, director of the emergencies situations ministry in the Volga region, said that up to 25 people could be under the rubble.
Some 500 police officers and riot police had been deployed to seal off the building on Wednesday afternoon 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 fire.
Television footage showed towering plumes of black smoke rising from the burning building.
A total of 55 sought medical help and 16 still 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 reports directly to President Vladimir Putin.
Families of Russian nationals who perished in the blaze will receive 1 million rubles ($16,300), local authorities said.
Relatives of foreign nationals will receive help in getting the bodies of their loved ones home.