Russian Government Covers-Up Details of Deadly Fire in Vladivostok

 

Sberbank Building in Vladicostok, Russia

On Monday, January 23, 2006 at approximately 11:45 AM (local time) a fire broke out inside a 9-story building in the city of Vladivostok, located on the Russian Pacific coast. The fire began on the 7th floor and affected the floors above; The 7th floor was occupied by Sberbank where the majority of employees were women 20-30 years of age. When firefighters arrived, they were instructed to enter the side of the back of the building which was not on fire and evacuate the bank’s top management staff.

 Meanwhile, lower-level employees on the top floors of the front side of the burning building were unable to escape the flames due to gates which were blocking the stairwells. Chief Regional Prosecutor, Alexander Anikin stated, “Some of the stairwells were barred… The evacuation was hindered.”. The evacuation was hindered further by the presence of a commercial parking lot located on the front side of the building. This parking lot was in violation of safety regulations and prevented firefighters from reaching employees in time. The building had no fire escape, emergency exits or other means of evacuation.

 At least fifteen employees jumped from the building to escape the fire; Three jumpers died. Bystander Ivan Petrov who witnessed three women jump from the building to escape the fire told NTV, “They waited until the very last moment. One woman was hanging beneath a window. She hung on and on… and then she let go.”. Although criminal cases were opened following the fire to investigate the blatant violation of fire safety regulations and lethal negligence, ultimately, no one was held responsible. The Russian government withheld information about the incident from the public and originally denied the incident altogether telling the public via official Russian media that the fire was a “rumor”.

 The official death toll, according to the Russian government was nine; Six died on the scene (including one person whose body was discovered inside the building hours later) and three who died after being rushed to the hospital. An additional fifteen were reported to have been hospitalized due to injuries.
But survivors of the event tell a very different story; According to employees who were rescued, the corridors of the building were filled with dead bodies and the death toll was much more significant than Russian officials will admit.  One of the building’s maintenance employees who wished to remain anonymous stated, “I know at least about thirteen dead inside …Not to consider those who’ve dropped down … Eight of them dropped, looking at the three already dead on the ground, but they went through the windows without hope to be rescued … They collected and hid the dead bodies inside.” On the evening of January 23, after the fire was extinguished, several employees were allowed into the building to recover documents.

 One of these employees, who had worked on the 6th floor of the building shared what he had seen inside with his sister, Lelya, “My brother worked in that building, on the 6th floor… After the fire they visited the building to collect the documents… They saw how workers transported the dead bodies. He said, there were 50-60 [dead bodies]”.

A resident of Vladivostok spoke out following the fire, claiming, “The cops, whom I know, say that they’ve been loading the dead bodies all night long.”. It is believed approximately 70 people were killed in total. Lelya, and many like her, have been working to piece together the story of what actually happened.

 Unfortunately, when new information regarding the incident emerges on the internet is is quickly edited or removed by the Russian government making it difficult for citizens to share their evidence with one another. Despite the government’s best efforts to cover-up the truth, Russian citizens know the information they have been told regarding the fire is false and they are speaking out.

One Russian woman asserted, “My daughter worked in a justice department. She said that there were actually much more dead- up to 70. She went on [about] the dead bodies, getting out from the building… Some of them were so scorched, that it was impossible to identify them… Nine victims? That’s a lie!”

Due to lax enforcement of safety regulations in the country, Russia’s rate of death by fire is ten times that of the United States.
The following video is of the Sberbank Fire in Vladivostock, Russia on January 23, 2006. It contains graphic, disturbing images and depictions of death. Please use discretion.

Photos courtesy News.VL.ru
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