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Rīga mulls absence of bomb shelters

Rīga municipality has identified places suitable for bomb shelters and concluded – everything should start from scratch. The situation with the existence and technical condition of these buildings is not good. The idea of a specific support program for the improvement and conversion of underground spaces into shelters has emerged, Latvian Television reported on Wednesday.

Objects suitable for 355 bomb shelters have been identified in Rīga, of which only a small proportion have been physically surveyed. And, it turns out, only a minority of Rīgans could get shelter in case of an attack.

“We're in a very bad situation. We don't have that infrastructure. We need to build it. Finland started building it in the early 50s. We have to follow the same saying: if there is no tree planted, then we have to do it right now. Let's do this with bomb shelters,“ said Gints Reinsons, head of the Riga City Council Civil Protection and Operational Information Administration.

The Administration encourages politicians to identify the inclusion of underground and pedestrian tunnels in the list of premises where temporary shelter could be provided. A long-term solution requires the renovation of existing shelters, and they could also be installed in local government-owned buildings.

An information report on the organization of this issue at the national level is currently being compiled, but it is secret.

"These points are more about organizational issues than they really are about adapting new structures and seeking funding. This may take a long time," noted Uldis Kevers, chief of the Civil Protection Administration of the State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD).

Bomb shelters could be mandatory in new residential projects, although not yet agreed, it would also be desirable to set them up in existing apartment blocks. There is a need for a solution because it needs money and the people in peace cannot be forced to do so at the moment.

“Riga as the capital is one major player in the overall strengthening and development of national security. So it's important to me that we take the initiative, we move forward. It is a little worrying, of course, the readiness of residents to organize their real estate,” said Linda Ozola, deputy chairwoman of Riga City Council.

“I cannot agree with the fact that only the state is guarding the population. If we don't protect ourselves, God won't protect us. There's that saying. So every resident needs to understand what house they live in. Do I want to sort that house out? Warming? Setting up a bomb shelter in the basement?” Laima Geikina, Rīga City Council deputy, said.

On Sunday, the De Facto broadcast reported that property developers don't like the idea of installing mandatory shelters in the new projects. In existing projects, it is difficult to agree on heating, let alone shelters. At the committee meeting, the introduction of a specific support program was found as a potential solution, but this will still need funding.

In the years of the Cold War, hundreds of shelters were constructed in Latvia, where the Soviet nomenclature and military personnel were to take shelter in the event of a nuclear war. After regaining independence, the State formally took care of these civil protection facilities, but no investment or maintenance took place.

During the 2008 financial crisis, to save funds, the government revoked the status of a civil protection facility for the remaining 300 bunkers, allowing landlords to handle them at their discretion. Most were privatized, demolished, flooded, collapsed or used for other purposes, such as a shop, warehouse, or museum.

At the end of the 1980s, there were around 20 shelters in Rīga, each of which could accommodate hundreds of people. Today, there are only four bunkers, and none of them can be used for their original purpose.

The LTV report below is from 2022 and shows some of the former bomb shelters in Rīga.

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