11 killed in Syria shopping centre

At least 11 people have been killed in a fire at a shopping centre in the Syrian capital, Damascus, the Interior Ministry has said.

It happened at the La Mirada Mall on al-Hamra Street overnight on Tuesday, state news agency, Sana, reported.

Two people had been rescued, AFP news agency quoted the Interior ministry as saying. AFP said dozens of businesses had been destroyed by the blaze.

An investigation into the cause is under way.

Twenty fire engines were sent to tackle the fire which took four hours to bring under control. Sana said the “entire building” had been alight before the flames were put out.

Pictures showed the blackened six-storey façade, with smoke drifting out of shattered window frames, and debris and water covering the street.

The director of civil defence said most of those who died were security guards or staff, AFP reported.

Two babies have died from the cold after heavy snow and freezing temperatures hit camps for displaced people in north-western Syria.

A United Nations (UN) official told AFP news agency that the seven-day-old and two-month-old girls had died in Idlib province.

Some 2.8 million people have sought shelter in the opposition stronghold after fleeing their homes during the country’s decade-long civil war.

Many live in worn-out tents without warm clothes and fuel for heating.

The UN has warned that the situation was getting worse due to a severe economic downturn in Syria that had seen food prices double in a year, as well as a shortage of funding to provide winter aid and increased needs.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the babies whose deaths were reported on Tuesday had been staying in camps in the al-Ziyara and al-Sheikh Bahr areas, north of Idlib city.

The UK-based monitoring group added that a one-month-old baby boy had also died due to the cold at a camp in Jarablus, in neighbouring Aleppo province, on January 23.

Another child was meanwhile killed in the Qastal Miqdad area on January18 after snow caused the roof of their tent to collapse.

According to the UN, 287 camps for displaced people in Idlib and Aleppo have been affected by snowfalls, flooding and strong winds as a result of storms that battered the region on January 18, 19 and 25. -AFP

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