Fire at a shoe factory in Siberia, takes lives of 10 workers

At least ten workers died on Thursday, January 4, as a result of a fire at a shoe factory in a small village in the Novosibirsk region. This tragedy is only the last episode in a series of accidents at the workplace and fires, which in Russia annually kill at least 15,000 workers.

According to media reports , at least seven dead in the fire were Chinese immigrant workers. Other victims were, apparently, migrants from Kyrgyzstan, and one more, apparently, was a citizen of Russia. However, from other media reports it follows that all victims were Chinese. 

Relatively scant reports of Russian media report that the fire erupted around 8:47 am local time and was extinguished only at about 1 am local time. The fire destroyed about 2 thousand square meters of the factory building. 

More than 80 firefighters took part in extinguishing the fire [], as a result of which very toxic smoke was quickly formed - due to the properties of the materials used in the production of footwear. According to local media , firefighters had big problems with extinguishing the fire due to plant designs and severe cold. 

One of the members of the emergency response team told the news agency Interfax: "[The victims] tried to extinguish the fire before the arrival of firefighters. However, they died of carbon monoxide poisoning. " 

The number of victims may grow, as the factory employed about 30 people, all of them immigrant workers. Although the causes of the fire are still not accurately established, local media reported that fire safety violations could lead to the fire.

Fires in industrial enterprises, such as those that just happened in Siberia, serve as an accusatory act to the policy of restoring capitalism in the former USSR. For Russian oligarchs and wealthy entrepreneurs, there are no restrictions when it comes to exploiting the working class. They do not make even minimal investments in maintaining or creating safe working conditions. Russian capitalists are not subject to fines and do not incur any other penalties for their violations. As a result, in Russia there are no observance of basic safety standards on a huge number of jobs, warehouses, mines and factories.

The result of all this was an amazingly high level of mortality in the industry. While the Russian government officially reports about 3 thousand deaths per year in the workplace, the International Labor Organization has determined that the actual number is about 15 thousand. Annually in Russia as a result of exposure to hazardous conditions associated with work, about 190 thousand people die.

One of the latest industrial accidents was a fire at an oil refinery owned by the largest Russian private oil company Lukoil. This fire, which occurred in early October 2017, killed at least 4 workers. A few weeks later, as a result of a particularly horrifying incident, a 31-year-old woman was killed, who was alive in a vat with a hot caramel in a confectionery. She left her 10-year-old son orphan.

The statistics of occupational accidents do not take into account the millions of immigrant workers who live in Russia on a permanent or seasonal basis, either voluntarily or as a result of human trafficking. Most of them come from extremely impoverished countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus, where wages are lower, and unemployment is often higher than in Russia. Still, a significant part of the immigrant working class is Chinese, especially in the Russian Far East. 

Often, employers and plant owners feel they can create the worst working conditions for immigrant workers. These workers are practically deprived of all rights, especially if they are unregistered immigrants or victims of human trafficking - a widespread phenomenon throughout the former Soviet Union.

In recent years, in Russia, in factories and workplaces where predominantly or exclusively immigrant workers work, several fires have occurred with a large number of victims. One of such cases was the death of at least 17 workers from Tajikistan, the poorest of all the Central Asian republics. They were victims of a fire at a Moscow textile factory in early 2016. Another 17 workers from Kyrgyzstan died in August 2016 in a warehouse in Moscow.

Along with the catastrophic working conditions at Russian enterprises, the deterioration of general social conditions makes it difficult or impossible for firefighters and doctors to provide timely assistance to those who suffered as a result of accidents and save their lives. As of 2008, the death rate from fires in Russia was at the level of eight people per 100 thousand people, which is eight times higher than in the United States, Britain or Greece. In geographically, the largest country in the world, there are only about 5,000 fire stations. It is noteworthy that in a much smaller Poland, more than 15,000 fire stations. 

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