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 FIRE IN VIKTORIA CAMP IN ODESA: A TYPICAL UKRAINIAN TRAGEDY

FIRE IN VIKTORIA CAMP IN ODESA: A TYPICAL UKRAINIAN TRAGEDY

Odesa Mayor’s Office decided to do a good deed — construct a children’s camp for city kids, operating all-year-round and hosting up to 5,000 children per year.

The camp was dubbed “unique” and the most modern, and President Poroshenko personally arrived there and called it “one of the best.”

The facts and conclusions drawn from this tragedy should be acknowledged by everyone bearing responsibility for safety in this state, by those demanding justice and punishment for the guilty, and those who care of their safety and that of their compatriots.

On Sept. 16 [late night Sept. 15 – ed.], after the kids went to bed, one of the camp buildings with 42 children inside suddenly caught fire.

Three kids were killed.

The factors of their death were as follows:

1. The building burned down in several minutes — the wooden house caught fire immediately, and fire spread unhindered.

2. The fire alarm did not go off, the kids were the ones who alarmed the camp.

3. Fire extinguishing means were absent from the camp: the fire hydrant lacked water pressure, firefighting water pool was empty, and the nearest source of water supply was 1.3 km away.

4. Mentors were closing the doors of kids’ rooms for the night to prevent children from moving around.

5. Not all kids were evacuated — some were jumping out. But three kids could not be saved.

This tragedy revealed dozens of systemic problems of our state that have numerous times led to and will keep leading to similar tragedies if they are not followed by changes.

The project

They wanted this camp operating year-round, with a lot of children coming. But they built houses of wood, instead of different materials that would better suit this long-term project from energy efficiency and use points of view.

The project was developed and approved by the Department for Capital Construction of the City Mayor’s Office of Odesa. The tender was won by Yuh-Ukrstroi company, owned by people close to city mayor Hennadii Trukhanov. After the victory in the tender, the cost of the project was increased by 30 percent, as agreed. It turned out that the design project of the children’s camp made by Yuh-Ukrstroi did not include fire alarm system and interior power supply! And no one cared.

I.e. the major safety systems — alarm and electric circuit wiring — started to be constructed after the project was approved. Low quality of the works and attachment of electric devices to wooden surfaces are visible on images of surviving neighboring buildings.

For a wooden building of summer type like this, the electric circuit wiring was critically important as the building was intended to be used all year round. In winter, the circuit would have been used much more, so this should have been treated with greater attention.

Control

There are several stages where the quality of the fire alarm system and safety, as well as those of the power circuit, should have been controlled.

1. The design project.

2. The expertise of the project.

3. Author and technical control.

4. Control by the State Architecture and Construction Inspection.

5. Putting into service — State Emergency Service.

6. Annual inspection of the facility — State Emergency Service.

7. Control of camp managers responsible for fire safety.

And who was supposed to claim responsibility and say while the construction was still a project: “Hey, this is nonsense! Your fire safety sucks, start over!”?

No one in the construction company that won the tender which was created for them to win, the company with the ties to the customer — the Mayor’s Office of Odesa — wanted to be this person.

No one in the construction inspection, which is subordinate to the State Architecture and Construction Inspection that, as we all know, “sells tickets” to all construction companies in the country according to its pricelist and never signs a single document without a bribe, wanted to be this person.

No one in the fire inspection of the State Emergency Service in Odesa, which also “sell tickets” to everyone, wanted to be this person. The fire controllers found some violations and gave instructions to correct them. But they were supposed to prevent the camp from operating. And they didn’t.

And no one among the camp staff, who was hired by the mayor’s office, wanted to be that person.

Organization

No fire safety trainings were held, nor firefighting equipment and devices were tested. The children and mentors were not familiarized with emergency situation reaction and evacuation routes.

Conclusions:

1. Grave mistakes have been made during the stages of the design project, tender for construction, and agreeing on installation of fire alarm system and electric circuit wiring. Those mistakes led to human casualties. These mistakes might as well be backed by corruption reasons, and this must be investigated. The responsibility of Odesa mayor Trukhanov and his staff is obvious.

2. On the stage of control, the responsibility of city and regional State Architecture and Construction Inspection and its inspectors, as well as of the State Emergency Service and its inspectors is obvious.

3. On the stage of organization, the responsibility of the leadership and mentors of the camp are obvious. They were not ready for the tragedy and not trained to secure safety for the children. Despite the camp being fire unsafe, they did not prepare to possible threats.

4. Those guilty should be punished as strictly as possible so that the largest possible number of people realized: it is better to hold transparent tenders, involve professionals, not just people you know, who will construct something at the budget cost. Because this is the only guarantee that people would not be killed! It is better that controlling officials not just accept bribes but really control the quality and safety norms. All those who violated them are accessories in the murder of the three kids.

5. The key problem that led to the children’s death is that Ukraine lacks professional organization of the government. Locally, the authorities are of feudal structure, with clans that do not accept professionalism and do not tolerate competition.

I hope that the prosecutor’s office will indict all persons from every stage who made offenses that led to the death of three children.

This is why if there is no public assessment of the tragedy and if all those involved do not end up in court, such tragedies will persist.

The reason is that the background that led to the tragedy in Odesa is quite typical for the rest of the country. And all citizens must be aware of it. If we do not create a professional state, our children will face the consequences of our helplessness.

Yurii Butusov, Censor.NET
 
 
 
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