BY AVO BOGHOSSIAN
Days after the powerful blast that occurred in the Surmalu shopping center in Yerevan, as a result of which 16 people were killed and 60 others were injured, the rescue operations are still ongoing, and the search for missing people presumed to be trapped under the rubbles have not ceased.
The Urban Planning, Technical and Fire Safety Inspection Body said it had found over a dozen fire safety violations at the stricken site during an inspection last March. The Prosecutor General’s office has opened a criminal investigation into the explosion, citing possible breaches of fire safety regulations.
Naturally, the blast has reminded some of the powerful earthquake that struck Gyumri—the second biggest city in Armenia—34 years ago and revived the trauma that they had lived then.
Accidents happen anywhere in the world and will keep on occurring in the future, because errors and mistakes, miscalculations and mishaps are human, but the more advanced the society is and the more organized communities, nations and cities are, the less likely it is for such mistakes to occur.
In Armenia’s case, in addition to human error, accidents may happen more frequently as a consequence of other factors as well, namely negligence, indifference, superficiality, corruption and other shortcomings. All of these aspects are mainly due to the absence of relevant laws and surveillance apparatuses.
It’s a fact that the Gyumri earthquake and the high death toll it left behind, was mainly the result of shoddy construction.
In the shopping center blast case, apparently it was the lack of—or flexible and loose—regulatory rules, concerning the ownership of explosive materials, fireworks and other flammable paraphernalia, and their storage, production and use. Was there any certificate requirements for the storage of those highly inflammable material in the neighborhood of residential areas, let alone inside the premises of a shopping center bustled by multitudes of customers and passers by in the narrow alleyways between the shops and stores?
It is essential to ratify and create adequate laws and rules for every aspect of life in the country, before trying to cling to conspiracy theories whenever an accident happens, because that will alleviate the responsibilities of the authorities in charge.
Eventually we are obligated to behave like all developed nations organizing ourselves, especially because we are living in a region and in times full of uncertainties and challenges. It is time for serious action. Enough with populistic shows and enough blaming past authorities.