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Last Updated: Monday, 16 February, 2004, 12:25 GMT
Press points finger of blame
Russian press graphic

Monday's Russian press tries to discover the reasons behind the collapse of a roof at a Moscow water park on Saturday, which led to the deaths of at least 25 people.

Most papers blame the tragedy at the Transvaal leisure facility on negligence. Others see flaws in the original design of the building.

"Nightmare Park!" exclaims the front-page headline in the Moscow-based Moskovsky Komsomolets.

While the authorities have launched their own criminal investigation, the paper is already clear about one thing.

"The original design for the roof of the complex was flawed, or the roof itself was badly built," the paper says. "Either one, or the other, or both together."

Our businessmen chose the design that was cheaper
Novaya Gazeta

Otherwise, the paper argues, neither the sheer weight of snow, nor the presence of rust, would have seriously damaged the structure of the building.

Cutting costs

The Gazeta daily invites leading architects to speculate on why the roof caved in.

One tells the paper that poor safety practices may have been to blame.

"The roof was at the highest point of the building, and so naturally that was where there was the most moisture," he explains.

"In all probability, this was poorly monitored, or the water park didn't have any equipment whatsoever to monitor the extent to which the concrete structure was protected from steam."

Another architect, Viktor Ovsyannikov, tells Gazeta that he believes standards and regulations may have been breached as the water park was being built. This, he adds, points to a wider malaise in Russia.

>"'It's not a terrorist act!"... So what are you saying - is dying because of someone else's negligence any less horrific?"
Moskovsky Komsomolets

"The quality of construction work in Russia is very low. The most important thing in Russia is to build something and sell it as quickly as possible, and no-one's bothered about what happens further down the line."

Novaya Gazeta picks up on the same theme.

"Observers well versed in the ways of engineering... say that there are two basic designs for a water park - one Finnish and the other Turkish," the paper informs its readers.

"The Finns take low temperatures into account in their construction, but our businessmen chose the version that was cheaper."

Blame game

Two papers look at some wider implications of the disaster.

Moskovsky Komsomolets is critical of official reaction.

"'It's not a terrorist act! It's not a terrorist act!' - that's the mantra that all the top officials immediately started chanting, with barely a glance at the dreadful ruins at Transvaal-Park," the paper observes.

"So what are you saying - is dying because of someone else's negligence, indiscipline or thieving any less horrific?"

Nezavisimaya Gazeta meanwhile notes that the hunt for someone to blame is now the chief concern of the authorities and the public.

"Who's to blame? That's now the main question being asked, not only by the law-enforcement agencies and the city authorities, but by millions of Muscovites," the paper says.

But the paper warns:

"It's entirely possible that the real culprit behind the tragedy in the capital won't ever be identified."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

In pictures: Moscow pool tragedy
15 Feb 04  |  Photo Gallery

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