We’re such a television-obsessed culture now that, if we can’t find the remote we go from placid to violent in around five seconds. So spare a thought for Russia who, after a three-day black out, is only just beginning to receive transmissions once again. A fire at the Ostaniko tower was the source of the trouble and three days later the two main Russian channels began to do a limited joint transmission service which included soap operas and news programmes. T.V addicts may have longer to wait before many of their favourite shows are back on the airwaves, perhaps as long as a month and a half.
A much greater tragedy was unveiled as televisions across Russia staggered back into life; the deaths which were the result of the transmission tower fire. Three people, lift operator Svetlana Loseva, Aleksandr Shepitsyn, a plumber and Vladimir Arsyukov, had been attempting to flee the burning tower in the lift when the carriage plunged and killed them. However, this is not the full horror of what actually went on. Russian T.V gave a surprisingly stark description of what happened. Before the car of the lift actually plunged down, it became suspended some 250 metres above the ground. Here, because of the fire, it became red hot and, in the pitch blackness, began to fill with smoke. The harrowing last words of one of the victims are said to have been: “We have one breathing apparatus between the three of us. We are suffocating”
Soon after this last message was sent the cables of the lift snapped and the carriage plunged towards earth, smashing through the concrete floor and ending up some seven feet beneath the basement. Regulations apparently state that the lift should have been shut down as soon as the fire broke out but, tragically this did not happen. The fire itself was also caused by a catastrophic failure to adhere to regulations. Out of the 38 regulations in place to prevent such a tragedy as this happening, only 16 were adhered to. Russia will be sombre after learning of these deaths so tragic. People might be a bit miffed that they can’t get their favourite T.V show, but such petty annoyances will be replaced by a national grief at the horrific nature of these three people’s deaths. Investigations are now likely into why so many regulations were not adhered to.
Consumers in a shopping centre were left shocked after a man tragically fell to his death off an escalator. The Cornerhouse Complex in Nottingham was left stunned when Christopher Harris fell two floors from the escalator on a Thursday. He did not die instantly from the fall but, after being taken to the Queens Medical Centre he succumbed to the seriousness of his injuries.
Obviously, the first concern of the Health and Safety inspectorate was to determine what, if anything, might have caused the fall. An examination of the escalator determined that it was safe and that no faults had occurred to cause Mr. Harris’ death. Thus, it was an investigation which really raised more questions than it did actually answer, but the shopping centre itself will be relieved that they are not to blame for the tragedy which took place.
A spokesperson for the shopping complex has said that: “The Cornerhouse are working with the police and relevant authorities to fully investigate the incident and our deepest sympathy goes to all friends and family”. The spokesperson went on to reiterate that “The escalators are serviced and maintained to correct standards and were in fact inspected and cleared after the incident by a registered escalator engineer”. This would seem to be backed up by the coroner who has confirmed that the death is not considered suspicious and will thus not investigated as such. Thus attention turns from trying to find someone to blame, as there is nobody to blame, to finding how such an accident took place and how Mr. Harris sadly lost his life.
We all use escalators every day and Mr. Harris was no different, stepping onto one at quarter-past four on a regular Thursday as he shopped in the Cornerhouse. He could not have known the tragedy that was about to happen and his family and friends must be devastated at the sudden loss of Mr. Harris in such peculiar circumstances. Hopefully the Nottinghamshire Police’s appeal for witnesses will be heeded and someone will come forward who will be able to shed some light on what actually happened. Whilst it has been made clear that nobody is at fault, nor that the death is suspicious, his family, friends, and the Cornerstone shopping complex as well will want the closure of knowing how such a horrific accident could take place and what measures are needed to stop it happening again.
Arguably the most famous and prestigious theatre in the country, the Bristol Old Vic, has announced that it will be suddenly closing to allow for a £7million refurbishment of the premises. The curtain will come down on August 1st 2007 with an expected reopening time being tentatively discussed as December 2008. As well as the obvious disruption to performances, 45 people are expected to be made redundant and artistic director Simon Reade will also leave the company.
What’s troubling the theatrical community is that the opening production of the new season at the Old Vic was to be a production of Rough Crossings; a show which was a joint production with Headlong Touring Theatre, the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and the Lyric theatre in London. Ian Brown, artistic director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse confirmed such fears when he commented: “There’s a question mark now over how Rough Crossings is going to open and go on the road – that’s putting a lot of companies in a very difficult position”. However, David Farr at the Lyric Hammersmith has said that the show will go ahead but added that:
“I thought we had seen the end of this short-term panic reaction where a theatre closes its doors with almost no notice”.
The theatre has commented that the sudden closure has come after an unexpected £1million donation from the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts and that this money is being put to use carrying out essential repairs to the Grade 1 listed building as well as addressing health and safety concerns by working on the wiring and the plumbing within the theatre. New seating, an air-conditioning system and better disabled access are all also expected to be improvements made with the donation. The donation is to be topped up by funds from the Arts Council, a local Council grant and an appeal.
Rupert Rhymes, the chairman of trustees for the theatre, has acknowledged the sudden closure of the theatre but has said that: “The decision is a difficult one, but we had little option given the deteriorating state of the building, issues of health and safety and the need to improve the comfort for audiences”
Hopefully when the theatre reopens it will have been worth the wait and many more seasons of groundbreaking original theatre will be able to take place in the newly-refurbished Old Vic.