Baku, May 20, AZERTAC
On May 19 a fire broke out in a multi-storey building on 200/36 Azadlig Avenue in Binagadi district.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev visited the site of the incident in the morning of May 20.
The head of state gave instructions to members of the relevant State Commission on a range of issues, including investigation of the causes of fire and elimination of its consequences, provision of assistance to those who were affected by the tragedy and families of those who died.
Then the State Commission, which was set up to deal with the incident, held its first meeting chaired by the President of Azerbaijan.
Addressing the meeting, President Ilham Aliyev said:
- As a result of a fire that occurred in a high-rise residential building on the territory of Binagadi district yesterday, 15 people were killed and dozens were injured.
I express my condolences to the families, loved ones and relatives of the victims again. I suggesting honoring the memory of those killed by a minute of silence (a minute’s silence was observed for victims of the fire).
May Allah rest their souls in peace.
I am told that about 20 people are in hospital at the present time. Their treatment is being provided. The Ministry of Health is doing everything it can to make sure that they are fully recovered and return home.
I should note that at the time of the accident all state agencies showed great dedication. Health workers, ambulance crews, rescue workers and the police showed high professionalism, dedication and heroism. Dozens of people were evacuated from the building and rescued. I would like to thank everyone who took part in the rescue operation. I appreciate that.
In the aftermath of the incident, a State Commission was established by my decree yesterday. Today we are holding the first meeting of the commission. I personally will chair the first meeting of the commission.
The Commission must examine all the issues and draw the necessary conclusions. First of all, it is necessary to investigate the cause of the fire. Law enforcement agencies have been given the instruction. They are working on this. A criminal case was started yesterday. The persons who have committed the crime must be brought to justice.
The Commission is working now. The main thing is that those injured are looked after and taken care of. They are now being temporarily provided with housing. The instruction has been given to take all appropriate measures for their temporary resettlement. They have also been provided with financial assistance so that they could rent some housing space while renovation is under way. These issues are being resolved.
At the same time, of course, it is necessary to thoroughly investigate the causes of the fire. As I have said, law enforcement agencies have already begun their work. The executives of the company that dealt with renovation of the building have been detained and the issue must be seriously investigated.
This is not the first instance. Prior to that, a similar incident occurred in the Khatai district. Fortunately, there were no fatalities then. But this issue, too, must be seriously investigated. I should also note that the investigation is under way in the aftermath of a fire that occurred in a residential building in Khatai district. I should note that the repairs of that building were carried out by another company.
It shows that in both cases the companies engaged in building repairs showed great irresponsibility. Law enforcement agencies are, of course, investigating this issue now. I do not want to say anything at this stage, but the preliminary theory is that the facing materials used in the repairs were of poor quality and non-fireproof. I have repeatedly raised the issue of repairs carried out in Baku: first of all, repairs must be carried out with good quality and hazardous substances must not be used.
Representatives of relevant government agencies have repeatedly told me that all the materials used are of good quality and fireproof. But the incident has shown that this information is false. We should also investigate the issue of where the materials used in the repairs of these buildings were produced or imported from! Who gave them the certificate? What kind of expertise have they undergone? If they have undergone expertise, who issued this conclusion? If they have not been examined, it means that these buildings were repaired illegally. So all of these issues need to be seriously investigated.
We issued appropriate instructions yesterday. I am not satisfied with the information provided to me because I see that some agencies are trying to shift responsibility to each other. Therefore, law enforcement authorities, primarily the prosecutor’s office, must seriously investigate the matter and obtain a substantive result: who is to blame.
I want to say again that the preliminary theory is the use of low-quality materials. However, these materials have been used in Baku for many years, but such incidents did not occur. According to the information provided to me, the quality of materials used at the initial stage was good. But afterwards, some hazardous substances were revealed in these materials. If this is the case, we need a formal opinion on that. All the structures and people who are guilty of the deaths of innocent civilians will be punished. And the punishment will be very harsh because innocent people have been killed. They were not guilty of anything.
I want to say again that rescue crews, health workers and police officers worked very hard and displayed heroism. Otherwise, the number of victims could be much higher. But at the same time, people have been killed and this, of course, has shocked our entire nation.
I also want to note that there are many buildings lined with the same material in Baku now. According to some reports, there are more than 200. I instructed the Baku City Executive Authority and the Ministry of Emergency Situations yesterday to immediately conduct the examination of all the buildings lined with similar materials, study the composition of these materials and, if there is any danger, dismantle these facing materials as soon as possible to eliminate any threat.
However, I should note that this should have been done before. If all the work had been planned correctly, this would not have happened. I want to say again that I am receiving various information, which sometimes contradicts each other. Therefore, there must be clarity in this issue. Azerbaijani citizens must know who is responsible and who will be brought to account for what happened.
I would like to note again that the priority task at the moment is to resettle the residents of the burned building. The state will provide them with financial assistance. The decree I signed yesterday provides for that too. The Cabinet of Ministers has been told to determine the amount of financial support they will receive in a short time.
At the same time, the building affected by the fire must be repaired at the expense of the state as soon as possible. All apartments have to be repaired at the expense of the state. People will be provided with the necessary items and furniture will be purchased. So the state assumes that. This demonstrates again that the Azerbaijani state is concerned about its citizens.
The building must be repaired as soon as possible, because people have to go back there. Of course, we need to determine the stability of the building after the fire, and all this work must be done as soon as possible.
I must reiterate that it is not the first instance. In fact, these measures should have been taken after the first fire occurred. I have issued the necessary instructions because the first building in Khatai district also caught fire quickly and burned out. Something similar has occurred this time too. Despite the fact that rescuers, fire trucks and ambulance brigades immediately arrived at the scene – we have video footage – the building burned out in a very short time.
Everybody must draw conclusions. Every civil servant be aware of his responsibility. I must reiterate that no-one will go unpunished. The guilty persons will be punished by the state and justice will be restored.
President Ilham Aliyev: Of course, it is necessary to scrutinize all theories. I want to say again that the investigation has just begun. The results of the investigation will be presented, of course, to me and the Azerbaijani public. All tasks have been set and the issue will be seriously investigated. I want to say again that first of all we must show attention and take care of those receiving treatment in hospital. All other issues must also be resolved. The culprits will be held accountable. A very severe punishment awaits them. In order to prevent this from happening in the future, I require that a package of specific proposals is submitted to me because I see that there is no rigorous control in this area. These regulatory matters are enshrined in our laws, but they are not observed in real life. Buildings are repaired but contracts are not concluded. This is completely unacceptable. Or a certificate is issued saying that certain additives should be included in a certain substance to increase its fire resistance or enhance quality. But then, i.e. during construction and manufacture, these additives are not included, which undermines quality. Therefore, strict control of all building materials used is required at every step. There should not be a single building where work could be carried out without a contract or without examination. If there is examination which is not accurate, then the people signing an expert opinion should also be held accountable. Therefore, this requires broad work of law enforcement agencies, so that we put an end to this issue and chaos once and for all. It does not suit us at all.
So much is being done in Azerbaijan in the areas of landscaping, improvement, repair and restoration. All work must be carried out with the highest quality. My first requirement is the following: safety and quality. But in real life we are seeing that these rules are being violated and illegal houses are being built. So many homes are being illegally built in Baku and in Azerbaijan in general! When I ask about this, it appears that no-one knows anything. The heads of local executive authorities, city executive authorities or anyone else seem to be unaware. While reviewing a sports facility recently, I saw that a part of the "Dostlug" park, which was actually established with the personal participation of great leader Heydar Aliyev, has already been captured. I was there about seven or eight years ago. I saw that trees in the "Dostlug" park were being cut down and houses built. I told Hajibala Abutalibov: go and find out, all the buildings under construction are illegal. I said: go and knock them down. Let this be a lesson to those who build such structures. The other day I saw again that villas are being constructed right next to the "Dostlug" park, on the slope. I enquired who builds them. Not a single person emerged. I said: knock down one of the villas and we will see who is behind this. No-one came up again. And then I said that if this is the case, if they do not belong to anyone, knock them all down as a lesson to others. They illegally privatize, capture and enclose these areas. They have built retaining walls which may have cost millions of manats.
Such arbitrariness is unacceptable. I have repeatedly said that there must be order. In the first place, all civil servants should set an example. Place are seized for illegal construction. Then they document it in illegal ways.
So many buildings have been built under power lines. People do not even realize how dangerous it is for them. But who gave permission for this? It looks as though they have built it without permission. After all, we live in Azerbaijan. If local executive bodies and the municipality do not give consent, who can do anything on his own? The municipality has turned into some sort of a branch of the executive authority. The municipality has its own powers. At the moment, I do not see this activity. In all regions, villages and cities, work is being done at the expense of the state. Have municipalities built at least one rural road? This is actually what they are supposed to do. All rural roads are built by us from the state budget or the Contingency Fund of the President. The municipality is simply an institution to put stamps on unlawful acts. This issue must also be investigated by the prosecutor’s office. This must end.
When I ask where did these illegal buildings came from, no-one knows. This is impossible. These are also, as they say, incidents originating from the same source. Illegality and arbitrariness must end.
Therefore, in order to prevent such accidents in the future, members of the commission should submit specific proposals to me. Even a small building can’t be built without permission. If this is repeated, I will not only sack these people, but will bring them to justice. The Azerbaijani public sees that there are no untouchable people now. If you have committed a crime, then, regardless of your position, you must be brought to justice.
I have repeatedly said that civil servants should act decently, be in touch with the people and not hurt them. I told them to make sure that they themselves and their family members do not violate the law. I have repeatedly spoken about that, but I can see that there are still people who do not fulfil my instructions. And what is the result? They become unhappy in the end. The Azerbaijani public knows all this. No-one can stay away from the law. No-one is untouchable. Just have a look: several businessmen have recently been prosecuted for major violations. The time will come when the public will be informed about these matters. Why? Because they did not realize their responsibility, plundered state property and embezzled public funds.
Family members of senior officials are committing a crime. And then they want to evade prosecution. Unfortunately, there are government officials patronizing them. They do everything in their power to evade responsibility. I have spoken about this: those present here are aware of my position. No-one can escape responsibility, especially government officials. A person occupying a senior position should act responsibly. We live in a law-governed state. If you have committed a crime, you will be punished! That is all. Therefore, I want to say once again in connection with this incident that specific proposals should be submitted. Today, I want to warn all public officials and employees of state agencies once again that everyone must abide by the law and that no-one can escape responsibility. Those guilty of this accident will certainly be brought to justice. Justice will be restored.
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The members of the State Commission provided information about the causes of fire and the work done.
President Ilham Aliyev once again gave concrete instructions to thoroughly investigate the incident and take necessary measures.