An accident involving the public utility in Volgograd, an industrial city in the lower reach of the Volga River that was formerly known as Stalingrad, during which a music school for children was flooded with boiling water, luckily ended in no fatalities. However, the prosecutor's office took interest in the accident and is conducting an inspection. After all, by many patterns, the accident is reminiscent of another one that took place in Perm, a city and the administrative centre of the Perm territory to the west of the Ural Mountains, at the end of January this year and caused human casualties.
Volgograd made headlines because of a serious accident associated with communal services. Fortunately, there was no loss of human lives. In the morning of February 13, the heating main broke down in the Central district of the city. As a result, the basement of Volgograd children's music school No. 1 began to be rapidly filled with boiling water. At that moment, the classes were in full swing. Law enforcement officers were the first ones to arrive at the scene of the accident. They took children and teachers out of the building with the help of chairs and wooden benches, as the floors were already covered with boiling water. Classrooms and halls were filled with steam and condensation, musical instruments and documents were in hot water, and electrical wiring was made dysfunctional. The accident left several residential buildings were without heating. According to eyewitnesses, representatives of the Heat Supply Concession heating organization arrived only an hour after the accident. The nearest houses were disconnected from heat supply. As stated by Oksana Cheredinina, a senior assistant to the prosecutor of the Volgograd region, an inquiry into the flood has been initiated. If any causes of the accident are established, a set of prosecutorial measures will be taken.
It is to be recalled that at the end of January, a similar accident happened in Perm -- a heating pipe burst in the Karamel hostel. A total of 5 people were killed, including one child. The deaths were mainly caused by pain shock that people developed after stepped into the boiling water, which had flooded the floors. Mostly, the hostel's guests are people who come to Perm to be examined at the local cancer center. The media reported that the hostel was inspected by representatives of the local Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM.) A year ago a number of serious violations were revealed, and according to the findings, the hostel was to be closed on February 20.
The information obtained by officials suggests that the pipe break occurred at the local main pipeline. "The boiling water went down a slope along the underground tray in which the pipes were laid, and began to enter the basement through the branch line which provides hot water to the building. People were simply cut off by overheated steam. They stepped into the hot water, got the hemorrhagic shock immediately and fell into the boiling water,” Pavel Khlykhov, deputy director of the Perm rescue service, told kp.ru news engine. His words were confirmed by Igor Goncharov, acting minister of local security service of the Perm region.
As part of the investigation of the accident in Perm, law enforcement officers detained businessmen Anatoly Shcherbakov and his son Sergey, the owners of the Karamel hostel.
Wek.ru got a chance to obtain a short interview with Sergey Shcherbakov, who was in a pre-trial detention center.
- Was the heat pipe that has blown up under your supervision? What is its connection to the hostel premises?
- The burst occurred at a pipe owned by OOO Perm Heating Company, at a distance of 100 meters from the hotel premises. The ownership of this section of the pipe by that organization was established at the sessions of the Arbitration court. I have nothing to do with the maintenance, service or insulation of this pipe and should not have had.
- The investigation claims that you have illegally redesigned the premises for the hostel. Is that true?
- For some reason, the investigation is using false data. I redesigned a room on the other side of town. The fact of illegal rearrangement at 21, Soviet Army Street has not been identified by anyone.
- Did you violate the order of any authorities by continuing the hostel operation at the time of the accident?
- I did not violate any orders. The hostel operation was not suspended or prohibited. I have been given time to rectify the violations. It hasn't expired yet. There was no ban on the hostel operation.
- The investigation claims that you had to categorize the hostel to run the business. Did you do that?
- In accordance with Article 4 of the Federal Law of 2-05-2018 No. 16-FZ On Amendments to the Federal Law On the Fundamentals of Tourism Activities in the Russian Federation and the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation for improvement of the legal regulation of hotel services and classification of tourist industry facilities, the assigning of categories is mandatory for hotels with more than 50 rooms as of July 1, 2019, for hotels with more than 15 rooms as of January 1, 2020 and for all other hotels as of January 1, 2021.
Thus, the Karamel hostel as of 20.01.2020 was entitled to operate without a certificate of categorization.
- Do you think that the services of your hostel might be dangerous for customers?
- The degree of danger must be determined by the relevant agency. If they were so dangerous in terms of non-compliance with fire safety regulations, it would be the responsibility of the relevant authorities to make an order, issue a petition and suspend my activities. It didn’t happen. Neither is there a direct cause-and-effect linkage of the only violation I am charged with, nor there is any direct cause of an accident at the heating networks outside my hostel service area.
- What security measures have you taken at your hostel?
- The Karamel hostel was equipped with a firefighting system, including an emergency alarm system and an emergency lighting system, that went active on 2-20-2020. There was a publicly available scheme of evacuation in case of emergency. There were emergency phones which were used by the receptionist on 1-20-2020.
- The investigation committee believes that you have violated the law in terms the ban on using the basement floors of buildings as hotel premises. Will you comment on this?
- The investigation has no grounds to say that I have violated the law. There was no direct legal ban on hotels in the basement of an apartment building at the time of my activities. This ban was introduced by law only after the tragedy of 1-20-2020.
Indeed, in March, 2015 the national standard of the Russian Federation titled “Services of accommodation facilities; general requirements to hostels" was published. The premises, at 21 Soviet Army Street, were totally complied with the standards, except for Paragraph 5.7 that does not allow the use of basement floors and basement spaces as habitable rooms. However, in accordance with the explanations of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation dated 3-03-2016 this standard is not mandatory, and its requirements are non-regulatory.
- So you are saying that the investigation unreasonably accuses you of the danger of your services?
- I believe so. The investigation cannot have data that these services were dangerous for the life and health of customers in a standard situation. Moreover, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation is on my side. Specifically for the purpose of conciliation its representatives explained the Article 238 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation which I am charged with: "If a person has committed a violation of this kind in the process of production, storage, transportation of products for the purpose of sale or during the sale, work performance or provision of services, as well as the illegal issuance or use of an official document certifying the compliance of the said goods, work or services with safety requirements, but the specified goods, products, work or services did not pose a real risk of causing serious harm to health of a person or his/her death, then an act of this kind does not constitute a crime that can be considered under Article 238 of the Criminal Code. “
- Is anyone else in custody for causing harm to life and health as a result of this heating system pipe burst?
- No, nobody one else. I'm the only person who has actually got arrested so far. No one responsible for the pipe burst, for the accident itself and for the maintenance of this high-risk facility has been brought to justice. Why I am in jail, I still do not understand...