Thursday, October 26, 2006

Schiphol fire: one year later

In the night of 26 to 27 Ocotber last year, a fire raged at the prison complex at Schiphol Airport.

According to an independent investigation, the government is responsible in many ways for the tragic spread and consequences of the fire, especially in the failure to provide proper safety and plans in the construction and operation of the detention centre.

The fire started in a cell in K Wing. Personnel rush to the cell where the fire started and freed in the one person inside. They forgot to close the door, which resulted in the fire and smoke to spread. Due to the poor fire prevention system the fire department only arrived 15 minutes later. But because of security obstacles, poor coordination and information the firemen only managed to get to work almost 30 minutes after the first started.

11 asylum seekers choked to death. Another dozen or so suffered terrible burns and trauma. As a consolation 39 asylum seekers were given a permanent right to remain in the country.

The prisons were constructed in great haste, primarily to hold rejected asylum seekers before they are deported out of the country. Many construction regulations were bypassed and ignored. The roof windows did not open, causing the smoke and heat to be trapped in the wing. Most people perished because the cell doors were jammed and could not be opened. The security personnel at the prison complex were poorly trained to deal with emergency evacuations. Prisoners were herded aimlessly from one wing to another, and further exposed to unnecessary fear, panic and traumatic near-death experiences.

Here's a film reconstructing the events of that horrible evening...

To those who died so unnecessarily...

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