Home Back Forward November 4, 1998: On the brink of a catastrophe







We received this email from Kamchatka. Tragically, it speaks for itself... (I did a little reformatting to try to make it a little more comprehensible, but otherwise I left the email alone)

 Dear Maureen, I am sending you the material you asked me for. Some data I took from the Rotarian correspondence, some information has been compiled from local newspapers.

Some facts that are history now: Kamchatka, the "Vesty" local newspaper.

October 15, 1998 The strike of the "Kommunenergo" continues. On October 13 eight members of the strike committee of the State Unitarian Enterprise Kamchatkommunenergo were conducting negotiations with Alexander Dudnikov, Mayor of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, concerning 18-months non-payment of salaries. (It means that we haven't had heat before October 13 because of the above strike -Olga). Meanwhile the region is very close to a state of emergency. If a tanker with fuel doesn't come on time, we face long-lasting power cuts. And the tanker is awaited in early November at best.

October 16. The sitting of the Kamchatka Regional Emergency Committee was held on Wednesday. The state of emergency has been declared in Kamchatka Region. It has been decided to set limits of power and heating supply. Some enterprises will be cut off completely. Residential areas will have electricity according to a schedule. As for the population of remote districts of Kamchatka, they live under conditions of power limitations for a long time already.

October 20. There are several days already we live almost without light and heat. Now the electricity outages last 12 hour a day total. Some districts of the regional capital do not have not only hot water, but cold water as well. Cost of gas canisters for gas rangers and candles is rapidly growing up. People living in coastal settlements in Kamchatka have forgotten about hot water long ago. The journalist from the Vesty is questioning people in PK streets.

Larissa Litvinyenko, a teacher:

I am teaching at primary school. Classes begin at 10 o'clock, there no breakfasts at school. Children take off their outdoor clothes in darkness. It is very cold in classrooms.

Inna, a housewife:

If only they connect and disconnect power according to a schedule! But we have light an hour-or an hour and half later.

Vera, from the City Administration:

Our nursery school has been closed for two weeks for the reason of cold and absence of electricity to cook for children. When I go to my work I take my daughter with me.

Olga Matveeva, a pensioner:

Gas cans and candles are extremely expensive! I pour oil into a bowl and put a cotton wick there. So I have light!

The situation is in fact terrible and nobody hopes that it will be better this winter. Many people are purchasing kerosene heaters. They cost about $50 here now. The price of candles has quadrupled. Everyone is cooking (me too -Olga) on these little butane bottle gas rangers and the gas canisters have also more then tripled in cost. Those gas cookers are not safe. Smoke detectors aren't available here. Very few people know about them. There can be more and more houses fires as people set kerosene space heaters and even little wood stoves in their apartments. People need anything that can help them to warm up their apartments. They also need flashlights and batteries; vitamins of all kinds kids and adults' strength; medicines (antibiotics, all kinds of flu and bronchitis remedies; dehydrated soups and other quick foods that don't require long cooking on the expensive gas cook units. The situation is being intensified by the fact people have not been paid from 6 to 18 months. Many families have no money sufficient to buy even enough bread. Some people go to the place of their work by foot though they live far from it. Maureen, you have been to PK not once, so you know that transport is extremely important there. We were given our May salary only at the end of October and we don't know when the money for the other months is expected. Prices have tripled and quadrupled, but salaries haven't changed and are not paid to people at all.

One can fear that as the population becomes even more cold-soaked, and disease prone due to weakening resistance, there will be even more suffering and deaths.

Following is from the New York Times, 30 Oct under the title: RUSSIA: KAMCHATKA SEEKS FUEL AID. It also was in the same format in another publication titled: Deprived of Heating, Siberian Region Turns to UN MOSCOW, Oct. 30, 1998 -- The eastern Siberian region of Kamchatka appealed for United Nations aid to buy fuel after two weeks with daily power cuts lasting 20 hours and practically nonexistent heating in subzero temperatures, it was reported Thursday. The regional government lost all hope of receiving aid from Moscow and turned to the U.N. for humanitarian relief reported the Trud daily newspaper. Lev Boitsov, head of the Kamchatka government, said there were enough fuel supplies for another 10 days. Temperatures in the regional capital, Petropavlosk Kamchatka dropped to -3 degrees Celsius (27 F) overnight and struggled up to 2 degrees Celsius in the day.

Kamchatka Faces Disaster as Winter Comes MOSCOW, Nov. 02, 1998 -- (Agence France Presse) Three people died last week and a number were hurt in Russia's Far Eastern Kamchatka peninsula as a severe energy shortage threatens to bring disaster, Itar-Tass news agency reported Sunday. Fuel reserves are almost exhausted and power is cut for 20 hours a day, as temperatures have already dropped to minus 10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit), prompting the desperate authorities to appeal to the United Nations for help, the agency said. On Wednesday a couple burned to death in a fire in their apartment after forgetting to unplug an iron when the electricity went off, Itar-Tass said. And on Thursday a schoolgirl doing her homework in the dark with a flashlight between her teeth died under the eyes of her parents when the battery exploded for an unknown reason. Local Interior Ministry officials have also noted an increase of burns and other injuries from bottled gas explosions or incidents with oil lamps. Stocks of fuel were not laid in before the winter, and deliveries by sea have become very difficult. Four boats which ferried fuel from tankers offshore in the north of the peninsula are now icebound, and local reserves are down to only a few days. Itar-Tass news agency said bad weather made it impossible to clear a channel through the ice for the supplies to be resumed.

Hope the above information is OK. If not, then let me know. I haven't received a package yet. The procedure is too long. Looking forward to hearuing from you.


© Lenticular Productions Ltd. 1998