An accident involving a heating pipe has left five people, including a small child, dead in a Russian hotel, The Guardian reports. The individuals were burned alive as pressurized, boiling water poured into the room.
The incident seems to be the result of a combination of several factors, including Russia’s laws when it comes to building codes, residency, and occupancy; Russia’s method for heating its buildings in the winter; and Russia’s aged and neglected infrastructure.
Many Russian communities heat their homes and other buildings by transporting steam in pipes underneath the cities. Such is the case in the central Russian city of Perm, where the accident took place.
In a block of apartments in the city, the Karamel Hotel, a private hotel with five single and double rooms, operated out of the basement of one of the apartment buildings. It was there that an unknown number of people were staying when a steam pipe burst, instantly flooding the rooms with boiling water.
Five people died, including a small child, while three others were injured. Those three were hospitalized with severe burns.
Andrei Babikov, a doctor who treated the victims, says via The Moscow Times that one of the survivors, a 33-year-old woman, had burns over 35 percent of her body. Two other survivors, both men, weren’t hurt as badly.
#BREAKING #Russia In #Perm, five people died in a hotel "Caramel" due to a break in a hot water pipe, three more were hospitalized with burns. The hotel is located on the ground floor of the building. pic.twitter.com/4wYMPEHDY0— Kapil Patil (@Kapil_Patils) January 20, 2020
Hours after the accident, steam could still be seen pouring from the hotel’s entrance.
It seems that particular hotel had dealt with issues regarding its heating before — and not satisfactorily. The heating pipe in question had been in operation since the 1960s and had exploded once before, albeit without causing any injuries. Rather than replace the pipe, however, it was simply repaired.
Regional governor Maxim Reshetnikov, in calling the incident a “terrible accident,” thanked first responders and promised a criminal investigation.
“We will conduct the necessary checks with law enforcement and monitoring services. Special thanks go to the rescue workers, who themselves received burns in pulling people out,” he said.
Russian lawmaker Oleg Melnichenko, however, says via ABC News that the incident highlights the danger of renting out space to short-term tenants in building basements.
“Hostels shouldn’t be open in basements, where all pipelines are located,” he said.
Meanwhile, the pipe explosion has left another 20 buildings around Perm — including a hospital and a kindergarten — without hot water or a means of keeping warm in the dead of the Russian winter. It is unclear as of this writing how that situation is being addressed.