A friend of my mom's, herself a Russian-born woman, once said "I'd believe anything they'd say about Russia, even if they say that nowadays bears eat people in the streets". The longer I live the more I realize how right she was.
I keep following the story of the Lame Horse nightclub that burned down in Perm almost two weeks ago. If the story were a movie, I would laugh at it as unrealistic.
Unfortunately it's not a movie, it's a horrible human tragedy. None of those people deserved to die there, not even the owner.
Inevitably, though, for the people who did know anyone involved the sense of tragedy slowly dissipates, and the whole thing starts resembling a drinking game. Drink once for every official who got fired afterwards, drink twice for every violation the club committed, drink three times for every person crimilally charged... Drink once for every firework whose instructions were not read because they were in Chinese, drink twice for every firework whose instructions were in Russian and said "for outdoor use only" that got used inside nevertheless.
The findings, so far (might change as the investigation proceeds):
- The club was on the first floor of an apartment building. The premises were owned by the Ministry of Defense, and rented out illegally.
- On the paper, the place was a cafe for 50 persons, with an area of 460 m² and huge windows. In reality it held 400 people on the most crowded nights (which the fire night luckily wasn't), had no windows to speak of and was 660 m². The extra 200 m² appeared and the windows disappeared when they moved and rebuilt the wall. Nobody admits having ever received any rent for the extra square footage, or metrage, and none of the inspectors noticed it.
- Emergency exits? We don't need any fucking emergency exits! We have those huge windows, just look at this paper! (OK, there was one unmarked extra exit that only the staff knew about.)
- The first fire inspection paper was signed in 2003 by a person who got fired from the position of a fire inspector in 2002.
- The ceiling was made of twigs and highly flammable polystyrene that was so poisonous that it took people a couple of breaths to pass out.
- The wiring was under the polystyrene, so the lights immediately went out. Emergency lights? What's that?
- Most employees were not officially working there.
- Come to think of it, the place didn't really exist, at least not as far as the tax office was concerned.
- The police who were investigating where the fireworks came from found 700 cubic meters of fireworks in a plastics factory in Chelyabinsk, where they were stored without any fire safety measures. They also believe that 120 tons of fireworks are being stored in a research center called "Geodesy" in a Moscow suburb, and that this is where the nightclub fireworks came from. They'd like to test this hypothesis, but the research center police is not letting them in. The research center in fact happens to be an artillery range and has nothing to do with any geodesy.
Stop it, I can't drink that much.