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‘We’re dying on the ninth floor’ Russian woman who called for help on Twitter among eight people killed in Yekaterinburg apartment fire

Source: Meduza
Russian Emergency Services Ministry

In the early hours of January 12, eight people were killed in a fire that broke out in an apartment building in Yekaterinburg. Among the victims was a seven-year-old child and her mother, who called for help on Twitter after reportedly being unable to get through to the emergency services. Firefighters did in fact arrive on the scene and managed to evacuate 90 people from the burning building. The deceased woman’s Twitter account has since been removed and government officials are claiming that she never called the fire department; spokespeople for the Emergency Situations Ministry underscored that “rescue workers don’t monitor Twitter.”

Eight people, including a child, were killed in an apartment building fire in the city of Yekaterinburg. The blaze broke out in a nine-story residential building on Rassvetnaya Street around 3:00 a.m. local time, on Tuesday, January 12. The Emergency Situations Ministry was made aware of the fire around 2:58 a.m. and firefighters arrived on the scene nine minutes later. By that time, dense smoke had filled every floor of the apartment building’s stairwell, the regional prosecutor’s office told the local news website E1.ru. According to the Emergency Situations Ministry, the residents who died were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. 

The fire began in a “sub-standard” apartment on the second floor, which was home to a 44-year-old woman. She and three other people inside the apartment were killed in the blaze, and her 17-year-old son was hospitalized with first and second-degree burns. According to local residents, the apartment was visited by “strange company,” who “in all likelihood, drank too much again.” According to regional prosecutors, the fire’s point of origin was found near a sofa; the apartment also contained gas burners and a number of cigarette butts. The Telegram-based news outlet Baza reported that this unit had its power cut off due to debts, so the residents used wax candles. 

During the fire, a woman on the ninth floor called for help via Twitter. At 3:05 a.m. local time, Twitter user “nelke7” (whose account no longer exists) tweeted the word “Help.” She then wrote about the fire and asked for rescue services to be called to Rassvetnaya Street (another Twitter user replied, saying they had called the number for the emergency services). In another tweet, the woman said that there was a child in the apartment with her — then she said they were suffocating from the smoke. In total, she published 12 posts in 12 minutes, including two photographs, and then went silent. Her account was removed during the day on January 12 (you can read a transcript of the tweets below). According to police officials, the woman writing from the account was a 38-year-old local resident named Natalya Belova. She and her seven-year-old daughter, Vera, were both killed in the blaze. According to the website Mash, Belova started tweeting about the fire after she couldn’t get through to the Emergency Situations Ministry. 

Here’s what ‘nelke7’ wrote on Twitter. Warning, these tweets may be shocking.

Meduza wrote out this transcript of “nelke7’s” tweets after this account was removed from Twitter. You can read the original verbatim transcript in Russian here

3:05 Help

3:05 [We’re burning] 

3:06 WE’RE BURNING 

3:06 CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT EKB RASSVETNAYA 7

3:06 We can’t get down from the top floor

3:07 Smoke

3:07 I’m locked in with my child, ffs 

3:07 The apartment below is on fire, we’re suffocating

3:14 We’re dying on the ninth floor

3:16 “nelke7” publishes a photograph

3:16 “nelke7” publishes a second photograph

3:17 Help

Emergency officials stated that the woman who called for help on Twitter didn’t phone the fire department and underscored that she “acted incorrectly.” The Emergency Situations Ministry said that the woman and her daughter went out into the smoke-filled stairwell instead of waiting for the firefighters inside their apartment. “This killed her. When the rescuers arrived, both of them were still alive. They carried them from the ninth floor in their arms. But the doctors weren’t able to save them, unfortunately. Why she was writing on Twitter is also unclear. Rescue workers don’t monitor Twitter,” the ministry’s press service said. According to the emergency department, the people killed on the fifth floor also suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from the stairwell when they too tried to escape. Yekaterinburg’s acting head, Alexey Orlov, said that the building’s residents should have gone out to their balconies or remained inside their apartments. In total, rescue workers evacuated 90 people from the burning building. 

Following the fire, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case on charges of death caused by negligence. State investigators have outlined several potential causes of the blaze, including the careless handling of fire, a short circuit in the electrical wiring, and malfunctioning electrical appliances. 

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Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart

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