Yet another massive fire in Russia, and yet again dozens of people are killed because of the Russian fascination for restricting entry and exit to buildings.
The latest victims: 45 women in a drug rehabilition hospital.
The fire was caused by arson, but the deaths were largely due to the fact that there was only one exit to the building, and it was locked:
“It was a very particular building with five storeys and only one exit and bars on the windows because it was a drug treatment hospital,” said Irina Andrianova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Emergencies Ministry.
“Judging by the placement of the bodies, they really tried to get out,” said Alexander Chupriyanov, the deputy emergency situations minister.
I understand some of the reasons for needing to keep some control over who comes and goes at a drug rehabilitation centre, of course. But this isn’t a problem limited to hospitals – it’s far more widespread than that.
The typical Russian dormitory has just one entrance. If this wasnt enough of a fire hazard, this solitary entrance is normally locked at night, preventing residents from going in or out. Ground floor windows are also barred, to prevent break-ins. Now, officially, there is supposed to be someone stationed by the locked door, so that it can be opened in an emergency. More often than not, though, the guard is either off drinking lots of vodka, or dead to the world, sleeping off the evenings vodka.
Yes, Russia has a problem with ageing infrastructure. Some of the structural limitations of Soviet era buildings will be there for decades to come.
But that’s really no excuse for the mentality of those responsible for safety at those buildings – instead of diligently guarding and protecting their charges, they’re usually drunk.
Until that changes, we’ll see many more fire tragedies in Russia.
Update: And, with morbid timing, the day after I wrote this post, a fire at a clinic for mentally ill children in Taiga, Siberia killed eight people. In reporting the story, the BBC note:
Russia records about 18,000 fire deaths a year, AP reports – 10 times more than in the US.
Russia has about half the population of the US, so the chances of a Russian dying in a fire are actually 20 time higher than those of an American citizen.