Ten people have already died in gas explosions in Russia this month. Because many tenants are cold in their apartments, they heat with gas stoves. A deadly danger.
Moscow – It’s an explosive time in Russia. When it gets cold in September but not yet cold enough for the official start of the heating season, many people turn on the gas stove or oven to warm up.
A detonation in Noginsk near Moscow killed seven people, including two children. A new season of deadly apartment explosions has begun, media commented. Three people died on Saturday in Jelez, around 350 kilometers south of Moscow.
Even if the causes have not been fully clarified and gas leaks in ailing pipelines are often the reason for the accidents, the incident in Noginsk sparked a debate in the energy superpower Russia. A discussion about whether the rules for the start of the heating season are still up to date. A decree of the Ministry of Energy from 2003 stipulates that municipalities only turn on district heating if the mean outside temperature does not rise above eight degrees Celsius for five days in a row. There are no such rules in Germany.
Flame goes out, gas continues to flow
In Russia, on the other hand, freezing in apartments is part of everyday life during this transition period. Some people help themselves with a radiator. However, heating with a gas stove is particularly widespread. It’s cheap, but prohibited and dangerous because the flame can go out. The gas then often flows out overnight. And in the morning, when the light is switched on, for example, it bangs. Often with fatal consequences. In Noginsk alone, apartments on several floors were torn down. In addition to the dead, there were more than 20 injured.
“In order to prevent the repetition of such a tragedy as in Noginsk, I ask you to examine the possibility of increasing the prescribed temperature to the daily average – from eight to ten degrees to start the heating season,” wrote MEP Jelena Wtorygina Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. And she asked to shorten the period for starting up the district heating – from five to three days.
So far, the authorities have had one working week to start heating when it is cold enough – facilities such as clinics and schools have priority. Dozens of social institutions in Moscow have just applied for the heaters to be switched on prematurely.
Many Russians freeze before the heating starts
According to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which is critical of the Kremlin, most of the accidents can be traced back to ailing pipelines and inadequate controls of the gas infrastructure. The number of gas explosions has been increasing for years, as the paper complains. According to the gas equipment engineers’ guild, there were more than 90 explosions nationwide in 2017, 130 in 2018 and 188 in 2019.
The explosions like those in Noginsk and Yelets are inconvenient for the Russian power apparatus before the parliamentary elections this Sunday. Gas giant Gazprom is currently celebrating the completion of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline. Gazprom boss Alexej Miller says that the first gas should flow through the new pipeline to Germany during this heating period. The Russians, however, can only dream of regulations like those in Germany, where tenants are usually entitled to a room temperature of at least 20 degrees Celsius.
“Turn on the heaters!”, “Change the rules!” And “Governors are acting!” Or just “We’re cold!”, “We’re freezing to death”, “I don’t understand why you don’t turn the heating on in autumn” to read on the websites of the state media that have activated comment columns on the new debate. “The cold forces many people in their apartments to turn on the gas for a long time to warm up, because the heating time is still a long way off,” writes reader Yegor Fyodorov at the Ria Nowosti agency.
Not only the heating is centrally controlled
For many people in Russia, heating up late is just as much of a nuisance as turning off the warm water for a while in summer. At the moment, however, the use of radiators in apartments and offices is particularly common these days. Many are also looking forward to the weather forecast. And every year it is like a feast day when the heating finally warms up.
However, there is no change in the previous regulations in sight. Duma deputy Igor Torozhin said that the norms were “optimal” from a medical and economic point of view. As a member of Parliament’s housing policy committee, he said that this would reduce the financial burden on citizens. Otherwise people would have to pay more the longer the heating period lasts.
Many tenants would rather pay than freeze. Housing managers keep declaring that it is rather the municipalities to blame. In order to save themselves, the authorities either started late or did not allow the heating to run at full capacity. But when things go well, it often gets so warm that the room temperature can only be controlled via the window. Many heating systems can then only be switched on or off, but not in stages.
Last year, Moscow made an exception because of the corona pandemic, so as not to weaken people’s immune systems through cold apartments. However, significantly more people in Russia are currently dying from the virus than a year ago. In Moscow, the temperature this week is forecast to be just over ten degrees during the day. Mayor Sergej Sobyanin announced on Monday that every apartment in Europe’s largest city should be warm by the weekend – just in time for the parliamentary elections. dpa