Gas Blast Kills 23 in Dnipropetrovsk (Last Updated Oct. 20)
A natural gas explosion on Saturday, Oct. 13 took the lives of 23 high-rise dwellers, seven of them children, in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine’s third-largest city. (Rescue efforts ended Friday, Oct. 19.)
The explosion blew apart an entire section of the 10-storied condo complex, leaving more than 70 people injured. The shock wave has damaged neighboring buildings. According to preliminary findings, the accident was caused by the utility company’s negligence. Two company employees have been arrested.
PM Viktor Yanukovych, who came to ground zero, did not receive a warm welcome. Eye witnesses claimed that the fire engines summoned to the scene had lacked the fuel to extend their turntable ladders, a drag on rescue efforts at a time when every second counted. The victims surrounded Yanukovych and demanded that he sign a written obligation to reimburse them for their loss, Ukrayinska Pravda reports.
Local authorities have vowed to provide replacement apartments to all victims. BYuT leader Yulia Tymoshenko, a native of Dnipropetrovsk, has also visited the site of the tragedy. President Yushchenko has declared Tuesday a day of mourning.
I just watched Channel 5, and they said that people had been calling Dniprogaz, the utility company for two days, asking them to fix the broken gas valve. No response. Now you know what it takes to grab the utility company's attention in Ukraine. A total of 5,200 buildings were cut off from the gas supply.
The accident was followed by days of silence from Dniprogaz stockholders, the most prominent of which is Viktor Vekselberg. His Gazeks company, which controls Dniprogaz, is offering a payment of 500,000 hryvnias ($100,000) to every family, without accepting blame for the accident "until proven otherwise."
Gazeks is in turn owned by Renova, a company that positions itself as "Geography of Responsibility. Ideas, (sic) that shape the course of history."
Photos courtesy of Natalia Kovalchuk of AFP