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28 Mar, 2007 22:10

Russian officials seek end to fire deaths

Russian officials seek end to fire deaths

Russia’s Emergencies Minister has held a special meeting with advisors to discuss possible measures to improve fire safety throughout the country. It followed a number of blazes that hit the state and left dozens of people dead.

Sergey Shoigu held consultations with the representative of the Public Chamber, responsible for supervising control on the law-enforcement structures and organisations, Anatoly Kucherena, as well as other members of the Emergencies Ministry and the Public Chamber.

In the last ten days nearly 200 people died in a tragic chain of disasters. On March 17 a TU-134 missed the runway and crash-landed in Samara killing six. Two days later a massive explosion at the Kuzbass coal mine in Siberia claimed the lives of over 100. A few hours later a fire in a nursing home in the Krasnodar region killed at least 63 people. Reports say the night watchman had ignored two fire alarms and then tried to alert superiors before calling fire-fighters. Inspectors cited 36 violations of safety codes. 

The objective of the meeting was to understand whether the recent tragedies were the result of a systemic error in fire safety and firefighting issues or it was a pure coincidence. 

‘We understand our responsibility for fire safety in Russia. We are trying to repair the drawbacks in the current legislation. And I am glad that the president and the government support us. Today we deliberately focused on our problems rather than progress,' Sergey Shoigu said. 

'But over the past four years the growth rate in the number of facilities caused by fire has been decreasing by 5.5% annually. This is a lot. New departments have been formed and new technologies introduced. It is untrue that nothing is being done. Today we are talking about what more needs to be done,’ he added.

According to statistics quoted by Minister Sergey Shoigu, every fourth victim of a blaze in the world is a Russian citizen: 70-100 people die every day throughout the country. Moreover, 7 MLN of the population are completely outside the coverage of firefighting and emergency services. 

All that shows that the recent string of events is just an example of what is happening in Russia on a much broader scale. 

The Emergencies Ministry’s officials say that they are trying to improve its efficiency. The mortality is falling slightly, but that is happening to slowly. 

A number of measures to be taken to improve the situation were described at the meeting.

It was said that although the number of firefighters will be increased in the coming years, it will never be enough to cover the huge territory of the Russian Federation. 

It was also suggested that instead of recruiting more staff firefighters, probably local volunteer brigades should be more engaged. 

The emergency services will see the financing of the firefighting brigades increased over the following years. However, it still won’t be enough. Right now the equipment is out-of-date. Around 50% of all the cars are old.

Since a better legal framework should be provided to improve the efficiency of the firefighting, a special set of rules and regulations has been prepared by the Ministry’s officials.