Latvia: Fire at building with illegal hostel kills 8 people

Photo: Reuters Most of the victims of Wednesday's fire are believed to be foreign nationals.

A fire in a building housing a hostel that authorities said was operating illegally killed eight people in the center of Latvia’s capital early Wednesday, officials said.

The Latvian State Fire and Rescue Service said it was alerted about the fire on Merkela Street in the heart of Riga at about 5 a.m. When firefighters arrived, the building’s sixth floor and roof were on fire, and rescuers found eight people dead.

They evacuated another 24 people, the Baltic News Service reported. At least nine people were injured, including six who were hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation.

Latvian state TV broadcast footage of flames pouring out of the top of the building while two firefighters aimed at hose at the blaze from a ladder.

It wasn’t immediately clear how or where the fire started. Latvian authorities and Riga Mayor Martins Stakis said the state-owned building housed an illegal hostel where the operators recently had carried out unauthorized renovation work.

Latvian authorities said the hostel was technically a private apartment and lacked the necessary fire safety and other permits required to operate as a multiple-person lodging.

Several of the victims likely were foreigners, Stakis told reporters. The mayor said on Twitter that information he received from police indicated the hostel was operating illegally and “the burned building was dominated by foreigners, most likely foreign students, who used the hostel’s services.”

Deputy Police Chief Andrejs Grisins told Latvian media outlets that some of the bodies were so badly burned that DNA tests would be needed to confirm the victims’ identities.

The building is located in the commercial center of Riga, a city with some 630,000 residents, and close to the main bus and railway stations. A local booking website listed the hostel as “Japanese Style Centrum Riga” and said it had 22 rooms.

According to Latvian public broadcaster LSM, the hostel had been on the radar of police and the State Fire and Rescue Service since March because of concerns about fire safety and the facility not complying with COVID-19 restrictions.

In March, the hostel was issued a 500-euro ($600) fine for not complying with orders by authorities, LSM reported.

Similar articles

  • Spain’s 6-month state of emergency ends with street fiesta

    Spain’s 6-month state of emergency ends with street fiesta

    Wild street parties flooded the streets of Spanish cities marking the end of a 6-month state of emergency imposed to curb the spread of pandemic, Reuters reported. The restrictions including the strict curfew were lifted at midnight on Saturday under unprecedented pressure on the government. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said existing regulations should be enough to respond to outbreaks at the regional level as the rollout of vaccines is speeding up.

    29
  • EU opposes US over vaccine rights waiver

    EU opposes US over vaccine rights waiver

    The European Union stepped up its criticism to US related to calls to waive intellectual rights on production of Covid-19 vaccines, AP reported. On the second day of the EU summit in Porto the European Council President Charles Michel said that the initiative of US president Joe Biden to give for free the patent rights to poor countries will have a very limited impact and will not boost the global jabs rollout. Instead, Michel voiced concern over the US and UK approach that block exports to complete first the vaccination of their nation and thus delay the rollout of the global vaccination.

    54