Ukraine: Tragedy in Dnipropetrovsk

Global Voices Online
Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Oct. 13, a gas explosion destroyed much of a 10-story apartment building in Dnipropetrovsk, killing at least 18 people (including five children).

Dnipropetrovsk-based LJ user didaio (Denis Davydov) has been at the site of the tragedy, blogging about it ever since it occurred. Below are excerpts from his posts (UKR).

Saturday, October 13, 2007 - 5:44 PM:

[...] It was in the morning that the people living within 1 km [of the building that would explode] smelled strong gas odor. Soon afterwards, gas pipe valves in the apartments got blown off, and gas started coming out under high pressure. They called the [Ministry of Emergency Situations] and gas service, but were told that there was nothing wrong and they just had to open their windows a bit. Around 10:30 AM, gas stoves in the neighboring buildings burst into flames. Firefighters showed up some 15 minutes later, and, as they were going up the stairs, the explosion occurred. Eyewitnesses say it happened at 10:45 AM.


Victor Bondar, governor of [Dnipropetrovsk region], arrived together with [minister of emergency situations] Nestor Shufrych. It was around 3 PM then, four hours after the blast. As of 4 PM, [Dnipropetrovsk] mayor hasn't arrived yet, and everyone is waiting for him.

Everything's organized horribly! People aren't being notified of anything. Apartment owners can't find out about the fate of their relatives who were inside the building at the time of the the blast. Some have been evacuated via fire escapes, but others haven't been able to use them to descend by themselves. [...]

The police who encircle the building are telling people to go to the auditorium at Pryvatbank located nearby, but there's no auditorium there. In fact, the headquarters is behind Pryvatbank, at a kindergarten. In a small, unlit room, lists of the building's residents are being made.


It's been raining heavily since morning in Dnipropetrovsk today, and this is why many people were at home at the time of the explosion. There were many children among them.

Some parents, for example, went to the market, leaving their children at home. One woman, who lives in the most damaged [section of the building], told journalists that her daughter was inside the apartment, with a friend who had dropped by. The daughter's fate is unknown.

At the HQ, there's a room for those seeking urgent psychological assistance, but no one has been there yet. The woman who knows nothing about her daughter's fate is at the garage near the building, which was unlocked for journalists, to keep them out of the rain. There are no doctors around her, only her husband.

And there are many people like her here.

People in bathrobes are wandering around the neighborhood with infants wrapped in blankets in their hands. [...]

Sunday, October 14, 2007 - 1:29 AM:

[...] [Victor Yanukovych] arrived at 7:30 PM [Oct. 13]. [...] They visited the site of the tragedy and then went to talk to the residents of the unlucky building. Most of those who were present were on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and so as soon as the premier started talking, they interrupted him and began asking: why didn't the gas services arrive right after they had been called, a few hours before the tragedy; why aren't they cleaning away the debris - there are still children buried beneath them and one can hear their voices. Also, the people were asking about new apartments, aid and the permission to go to their old apartments - those that were intact - to take away some belongings and documents.

People were really annoyed with the amount of the premier's security. "There is more 'Berkut' [riot police] and cops than there are rescuers," one woman was screaming. "They've filled the pits with pebbles for you, so that there were no pits when you show up, but when we were trying to reach the gas service, we were being told that they are out of gasoline and [can't come]," one of the victims was saying to the premier.

[...] [Yulia Tymoshenko arrived around 8:30 PM] and said she wanted to see the tragedy site. It's about 200 meters away from the HQ. The path is more like an unplowed field after heavy rain than a city road. Tymoshenko didn't get into the car, but walked right through this mud in her high-heeled shoes. An hour earlier, Victor Yanukovych decided to ride a car rather than walk.

[On her way back], Tymoshenko was stopped by the people standing behind the cordon. It's hard to find words to describe the state they were in. Many of them appeared deranged, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some were crying out: "Yulia, punish the guilty ones." Some were asking for help, asking to make sure that the government didn't leave the people alone, face to face with this problem. With Yanukovych, people were making charges against him, while with Tymoshenko, they were turning for her as if she were a savior.


This tragedy could've been averted! It wasn't a terror attack. When you stand next to the ruin that's three floors high and realize there are people underneath, your legs become numb. And it could've been enough to just react to the people's phone calls! Imagine there's a fire in the apartment, the owner calls the firefighters, but they reply: "Turn the water on in the bathroom and don't worry." Shufrych states emotionally: "I'll strangle the guilty ones personally," "I won't be the minister if the guilty one aren't punished," but even now representatives of the communal services nob towards one another and blame everyone but themselves. [...]

Sunday, October 14, 2007 - 9:59 PM:

[...] People who lived on the 9th and 10th floors of Entrance #1 were allowed to go to their apartments to take the most necessary things (warm clothes and documents). Those who had pets at home were let in first. Only two members from each family were allowed to go in. It was mostly the women who did, because they knew what clothes to take and where to find it. And so they go downstairs with big sacks, and it's about 50 meters from the building's entrance to the police cordon. The women are dragging these sacks all by themselves - because the police do not allow men to get at least 10 meters inside the cordoned-off area to help the women. The whole neighborhood can, perhaps, hear the women wail, and these bastards, the cops, aren't even trying to help them!

All this just minutes after Shufrych was talking self-importantly about the need to treat the victims with care, support them, etc. [...]

Sunday, October 14, 2007 - 10:20 PM:

[Five photos by Stanislav Vedmid, two photos by LJ user didaio]



I don't want to scare anyone or ruin anyone's mood tonight, but these photos [fail to convey] what's really going on there. [...]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - 8:54 AM:

Another day has gone by. What's lost behind the numbers of the dead, the missing and the wounded is information on the main culprits in this horrible tragedy. So here's a little bit on the Dniprogas company.

[It] belongs to one of the richest Russians, the owner of the world's largest aluminum company, Victor Vekselberg. [...]


Stories of life and death.

One resident [...] was asleep when the explosion occurred. Without losing consciousness, without falling out of bed, he "descended" on this bed from the 7th floor to the 3rd, and got buried underneath the debris from the upper floors. He survived. When he heard steps nearby, he started calling for help. It turned out these were the steps of a rescuer, and he dragged the man from under the ruins. [...]

Another woman found by the rescuers was fully dressed, with all the documents and money. She had enough time to take everything, but, so unfortunately, no time to survive. [...]

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 9:19 AM:

Yesterday, it became clear once again that human beings are capable of getting used to any conditions. [...] People [affected by the Dnipropetrovsk disaster] are already thinking about the future. They are considering the proposed compensation options, trying to rescue at least some of their belongings [...].


There've also been fuss today caused by the President's visit today. Urgently, they are laying asphalt over the pits around the site of the tragedy, flattening the ground, cutting the trees, repairing the school that houses the HQ, replacing lightbulbs in street lamps. The only thing they aren't doing is, perhaps, painting the earth. Everyone who's here finds this extremely annoying. [...]

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