27 february 2012

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin conducts a videoconference on tackling the collapse of an entrance to an apartment block in Astrakhan

The prime minister instructed the government to begin resettling residents from the part of the building destroyed by the gas explosion at once and to pay them compensation for any lost property.


Sergei Shoigu: Mr Putin, as a result of the collapse of an entrance to an apartment block in Astrakhan, 12 people were injured and seven were hospitalised. Police have been acting jointly with other special services to conduct a tour of the building and provide detailed data on the residents of this block of flats. At the time of the tragedy, there were 283 people registered in the building and another 26 people lived there without registration. This figure may change, taking into account the possibility of students renting flats and guests of residents and other people staying there. To date, seven people are in hospital and 14 people are unaccounted for. We are continuing our search. We are currently setting up lifting equipment and bringing in mobile elevated work platforms.

At the present moment, a half-hour silence has been declared, dog handlers are working with police dogs, and we hope to find survivors. All the necessary equipment, including special lifting equipment, is in place; the Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Security Service and the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development are there. We also need to assess the structural stability of the remaining sections of the block of flats as quickly as possible, that is the first section, i.e. entrance 1, and the second section, entrances 3, 4, 5 and 6.

The police have carried out a tour of all the work places and flats in the building, they have questioned all the witnesses, and watched all video surveillance recordings. They say that the fate of 14 people is currently unknown. We are continuing our work. That is the end of my report.

Vladimir Putin: I ask you again, are there any known deaths?

Sergei Shoigu: Mr Putin, there are no deaths at this point.

Vladimir Putin: Thank God! We have to keep a close watch on everything that is happening there. You know that already, I don't have to tell you that. The work must continue with the utmost accuracy. Do you have enough equipment there? 

Sergei Shoigu: Yes, Mr Putin, we have got 54 units of equipment, we have enough equipment. Now there is a threat of a collapse of the remaining panels on the upper floors. Naturally, this puts the rescuers, the dog specialists and the workers on the ground in danger. That is why the panels at the top are being strengthened at the same as the work on the ground is continuing…

Vladimir Putin: Can we now determine the cause of the blast with a reasonable degree of certainty? Was it bottled gas or mains supply?

Sergei Shoigu: We can, Mr Putin. This block of flat is linked to a gas network, most probably it came from the mains supply. 

Alexander Zhilkin (Astrakhan Region Governor): Gas.

Vladimir Putin: Mr. Zhilkin, who is responsible for safety? Who controls the utilities?

Alexander Zhilkin: The municipal utility services and Gazservis. According to the surveillance video recordings and the videos posted on the Internet by independent observers who happened to be on the site of the explosion, the focus of the blast was on the third floor. The explosion tore away all the balconies and threw them a distance of 80 metres. A minute later the section of the block collapsed. Everything is being examined, and after that it will become clear why this happened.    

Vladimir Putin: The officials responsible for the control over these gas networks must be suspended until the end of the investigation so that they do not interfere with anybody.

Remark: We’ll do that.

Vladimir Putin: You know that the government has set up a commission led by First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov. I would like to include the Emergency Ministry’s crisis centre in this – Mr Zubkov? Which of your colleagues is there with you?

Viktor Zubkov: Mr Putin, as you said, a relief commission has been set up. It includes representatives of all the ministries and departments: the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development, the Ministry of Regional Development, the head of Rostekhnadzor, the finance minister and the energy minister. All the commission members have joined me here at the crisis centre. I have just chaired our first meeting where we identified the issues that need to be tackled, and we have begun work. As I said, all of the government commission members are here. I know that many flats were damaged. The building is being examined to decide what to do next. If the worst comes to the worst, residents will have to be moved out of the entire building, that makes a total of 108 flats. It would be better if we leave half of the residents where they are, and resettle the residents of just 54 of the flats. Whatever happens, these people have lost everything – their homes, furniture and even documents, so they need comprehensive assistance and support. It is our job at the government commission to ensure this support is provided. I will fly out there as soon as possible to look after things on site, to see how the instructions I just issued are being followed.

Vladimir Putin: Who is representing the Healthcare Ministry?

Viktor Zubkov: Deputy Minister Maxim Topilin.

Vladimir Putin: Can I speak with him please?

Maxim Topilin: Mr Putin, I can report on the medical assistance being provided to the victims of the blast. As of this hour, seven people are in hospital, as Mr Shoigu just said. Only one of them is seriously injured, with multiple broken bones and a traumatic brain injury. The severity of the injuries to six people is described as medium and their lives are not in danger. Local physicians are giving them all necessary treatment. We have also enlisted the support of our institute in Astrakhan, whose specialists can provide advice to local doctors if needed. The seriously injured woman can be transferred to Moscow, if necessary, but so far there is no need. We are working closely with the deputy governor responsible for healthcare, and he also said this is not necessary (I just spoke with him).

Regarding benefits and compensation payments, the Emergencies Ministry is working on a resolution. The money will come from the reserve fund for emergencies. Once we have your instruction, the resolution will be drafted immediately. The standard compensation is 1 million roubles for each person killed in an accident, but fortunately, no deaths have been reported so far. The compensation for loss of property is usually 50,000 roubles per person for damaged property or 100,000 for property that has been lost entirely.  There are also federal subsidies of 200,000 and 400,000 roubles, but these come from a different source. If we have your order, we’ll start working on the resolution right away. That concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, go ahead with it. Who is representing the Finance Ministry?

Alexander Novak: Alexander Novak.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Novak, I would like you, please, to help the Emergencies Ministry estimate the funds required to help these people – I am referring to restoring their property, resettling them to other buildings and providing them with new homes.

Alexander Novak: Mr Putin, we’ll fulfil your order and draft a resolution immediately.

Vladimir Putin: Please do, together with your colleagues.

Alexander Novak: I will.

Vladimir Putin: Please connect Astrakhan again. Mr Zhilkin, have the people been moved out of the dangerous building?

Alexander Zhilkin: They have been accommodated at a local school for the time being, because the accident occurred just after 1 p.m. I have already made the decision, and we have two new buildings ready to move into. We will begin relocating them tomorrow once we have an official statement from the Emergencies Ministry that they can no longer live in their old building. We have also decided to pay out compensation from the regional budget to people from the 26 flats that were entirely destroyed, who have lost all their furniture and possessions. We’ll provide 1 million rouble relocation allowances to each family.

Vladimir Putin: Good. But please make sure that the people are comfortable enough for tonight, and start relocating them as soon as possible tomorrow.  Please make all the necessary arrangements between the federal and regional budgets, together with the Finance Ministry and Mr Shoigu, to make sure that people receive all they are legally entitled to as quickly as possible.

Alexander Zhilkin: All right.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Zubkov, please set off for Astrakhan tomorrow and take care of things on site.

Viktor Zubkov: I will, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: Good bye.