At least two people died and another five were injured when a fire broke out in a shopping center in the southwest Russian republic of Bashkiria on Saturday, local emergencies said.
The bodies of a young woman and a man were discovered in the five-storey Europa center in the city of Ufa, the republic's capital, a spokesman said.
Five others were injured, two of them are in a grave condition, said Artyom Valeyev, spokesman for the presidency of the Russian republic.
The fire occurred in the rush hour when the restaurants and shops were crowded. The blaze covered an area of 1,200 square meters and badly damaged the building.
Komsomolskaya Pravda daily said several dozen people were injured in the fire and were hospitalized with burn wounds.
The cause of the blaze is yet to be established. Russian emergencies are considering three causes - a short circuit, careless handling of fire and violation of fire safety rules.
Local emergencies officials said earlier the fire was likely caused by construction work on the fourth floor.
Valeyev said a gas tank could have exploded in a restaurant, causing a fire. He also said it is unlikely that the blaze was a result of a terrorist attack.
Unconfirmed reports earlier said the fire started after an explosion. Eyewitnesses said two cars had exploded on a parking lot near the entrance to the building.
NIZHNY NOVGOROD, January 22 (RIA Novosti)