Fire sensors removed from Polish hostel where fire broke out

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Remains of the Kamień Pomorski homeless hostel fire.
Image: Radosław Drożdżewski.

On Easter Monday, a hostel fire killed 22 people and injured 20 more. Nearly two dozen people are still in the hospital, including an eighteen-month-old baby in Kamień Pomorski, Poland. The dead included six children. There is still one person missing.

During the intense blaze, parents reportedly tossed children from windows of the upper floors to people waiting below. Residents jumped out of windows resulting in the majority of injuries which were broken bones.

The fire alarm sensors, which had been installed in the 1970s, were removed two years ago when the three storey worker's hostel was converted into a homeless family shelter.

Several building code violations were found which were not reported by construction inspectors.

The flames and smoke built up quickly in the three storey building hallways hindering escape from residential rooms. Only a few people managed to escape via the fire escape.

There were 77 people registered in the hostel, some were visitors, and the rest were homeless residents. There are still 11 registered people who are unaccounted for. The Minister of Interior and Administration reported that the recovered remains will be identified through DNA testing which could take weeks to process.

The fire broke out in the middle of the night, and a resident suspected that a lit cigarette may have caused the blaze.

"The fire started in the hall and then spread in the whole building," said Grzegorz Schetyna, the Minister of Interior and Administration.

Kamień Pomorski homeless hostel fire.
Image: Radosław Drożdżewski.

"I can guarantee that help will be complete and enough when it comes to ensuring a place to live for those saved from this catastrophe," said Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland. The Polish government committed 4 million zloty (US$1.2 million).

On Monday, Lech Kaczyński, President of Poland, declared three days of mourning.

All Polish shelters will undergo safety inspections as a result of the fire.


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