Filed under: Eastern Europe
Last Saturday, a Russian plane went down at the airport in the city of Samara on the Volga River. Half a dozen of the roughly 60 people on board were killed, and two dozen more were injured. Then the real horror began. Passengers described being forced to rescue themselves, as it took 20 minutes for the first official responders to appear. "We did everything ourselves," said passenger Andrei Beglitsin. "We put out the fire as best we could, and we rescued people from the plane." Publius Pundit has previously reported on the Russia's increasingly unfriendly skies, as plane after plane has met horrifying disaster, costing hundreds of lives.
And that was only the beginning. Two days later, a gas explosion at a coal mine in Siberia killed over 100 miners. Guards barred journalists from entering the area to report on the disaster, what the Kommersant called Russia's worst mining accident since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Russia's wealthiest man, London-based oligarch Roman Abramovich, controls two-fifths of the firm that owns the mine.
It got worse. The next day, a fire broke out in a state-operated nursing home facility, and 62 helpless senior citizens perished in the flames (see photo above, from the New York Times). It took nearly a half an hour after the blaze began for someone from the facility to contact the authorities. Russia has ten times more fatalities by fire per capita than the United States. The International Herald Tribune reported:
The toll in Kamyshevatskaya appeared to have been worsened by a series of violations, including insufficient fire- fighting equipment in the two-story building, home for more than 90 patients, both the elderly and the disabled. Two inspections last year turned up 36 fire-safety violations, a senior emergency services official, Sergei Salov, said in televised remarks. He acknowledged that not all the violations had been resolved and that the owners -- the regional social welfare department -- had been fined 20,000 rubles, about $770.
Kommersant indicated this may be the worst fire in Russia's history; a fire last December at a drug treatment center in Moscow killed 46 women.
Vladimir Putin has declared today a national "day of mourning" on account of these events. In any other country, a leader who had taken so much centralized power upon himself (Putin appoints Russians governors, and hence the members of their version of the Senate) would be called to account for such a horrifying litany of social failures. Yet, the people of Russia do not call him to account, and the result is that we continue to see these types of incidents spread and worsen in severity.