Last week I was contacted by an architect from Istanbul, about a recent fire that occurred in a girls’ dormitory there. There were 12 fatalities, including 10 middle-school girls, an adult tutor, and the 4-year-old child of a staff member. There have been conflicting reports about the exit – the door may have been locked, or may not have had operable hardware, or the hardware melted off, or the girls just couldn’t open the door. Whatever the reason, the exit appears to have played a major role in the loss of life in this fire.
While the school administrators and public officials try to piece together what happened and who is responsible, students at other schools in Turkey have taken to social media to share the conditions in their dormitories. I don’t speak Turkish and I’m guessing not many of my readers do, but here is a link to a news report about it. The role of social media is likely to have an interesting impact on life safety and code enforcement going forward…making it easier to report problems and create a sense of responsibility and urgency.
One of the news reports about this fire describes a media blackout on coverage of this tragedy, and the articles have been somewhat limited compared to similar events. The connection between the architect in Istanbul and iDigHardware results in greater visibility to the fire and any lessons learned. I’m grateful that I have the ability to play a role in that.
Here is some of the news coverage of the tragedy in Turkey:
Deadly fire in religious girls’ dorm shakes Turkey – AL Monitor
“Our firefighters are experts in this job. Students went to upper floors toward the fire escape doors, but they couldn’t open them,” Sozlu said. “This could be either because the doors were locked or the plastic door handles melted.” Four bodies were found in one room and eight bodies in the second room of the upper floor. Firefighter Unit Department head Fatih Durukan shared with Haberturk heartbreaking news that the girls stuck in the fire were in the middle of each room and waited their painful deaths while holding each other’s hands.
Thirteen out of 14 suspects were detained Wednesday over a deadly dormitory fire in southern Turkey’s Adana province, a police source told Anadolu Agency. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to media, said thirteen suspects were taken into custody, whereas one another remained at large. Earlier, Adana Chief Public Prosecutor Ali Yelden said among the suspects were the dormitory manager, three teachers, and two caretakers.
While the source of the fire, an electric meter, is believed to be located on the ground floor, the fire ascended quickly through wooden panels and carpets, trapping the girls on the second and third floors. As result of the fire, the roof almost completely collapsed and the wooden floors burned down, CNN Turk reported.
The case has caused outrage in Turkey, where coverage has been restricted by a media blackout imposed by authorities. And dozens of people who had gathered in Ankara to stage a protest were detained by police earlier this week.
On social media, thousands of users have used the hashtag #cocuklaryaniyor (Children are burning) to share their frustration about what they perceive as government negligence over unofficial dormitories.
Disasters like this are not rare in Turkey. Last year, six children died in a fire which broke out during a Koran course in Diyarbakir, in the south-east.
I’ve also seen some follow-up articles this week about the Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland, describing the conditions in the converted warehouse prior to the fire as well as the egress challenges that were faced by the building’s occupants. Continued vigilance and attention to life safety will help to prevent this type of tragedy, along with increased enforcement of adopted codes.
The Oakland Fire: What Happened Inside the Ghost Ship – New York Times
As reporters from The Times’s graphics department, we wanted to visualize what had happened and give readers a sense of the space where the disaster unfolded. To do this, we began to recreate a 3D model of the interior of the warehouse.
One of the key things we discovered was that concertgoers trying to escape the deadly fire had to negotiate a narrow, makeshift staircase, and then a circuitous path through a jumble of furniture and found objects.
The last hours of Oakland’s Ghost Ship warehouse – The Mercury News
Ohr had made it back through the darkness to the place where he had started the night: the front door. Those around him shined their cellphone lights on the doorway as he screamed, “The door is this way!”
The front door kept swinging closed, so Ohr held it open, still bellowing so his voice could be heard — “the door is this way!” He said he watched as 20, 30, 50, maybe 70 people fled the fire to safety.
“It chased people to the door,” he would later say. “It was terrifying. It was the most hellish thing I’ve ever seen.
“After two minutes, no one else came out.”
One Oakland official with knowledge of the Ghost Ship investigation estimated that there were 20 to 50 other illegally converted warehouses in the city alone, though none likely as dangerous as the warehouse where 36 were killed this month in the worst fire in modern California history.
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said some firefighters at the station level know about many of the converted buildings. But until the fire, the city had not made any coordinated effort to gather the information and take action, the source said.
Richmond mayor describes ‘our own Ghost Ship’ – San Francisco Chronicle
Richmond’s makeshift punk venue Burnt Ramen has long cheekily billed itself as “an unsafe place for all ages” drawing underground music fans to a graffitied building that’s actually owned by the studio’s proprietor whose website expresses disdain for regulation.
“I live by the code of NO RULES, NO SIGNS, and NO RESTRICTIONS and so therefore will not try to make Burnt Ramen a business that’s up to code and respected by the mainstream money minded morons,” reads a message on the venue’s website that appears to have been posted years ago after a fire inspection led to a shutdown of live shows.