Alfa supermarket under flak after emergency doors fail to open

Last week, visitors to the Alfa shopping mall in Rīga had trouble evacuating the building through an emergency exit after an alarm was sounded. 

After opening the door with sheer force, people vacating the film theater at Alfa found out that it led to a construction site.

"The door was broken open, as it wouldn't open otherwise. There was a big double door... it took three to four very unpleasant minutes [for us to get outside]. When we did, there was the construction site and there were metal fences in front of the evacuation door there," said Renāte Cāne, a moviegoer present at the incident.

Alfa has now issued an apology, saying the incident was caused by a technical error that would be fixed from happening again. Alfa is owned by the Linstow company, which also owns many other shopping malls across Rīga.

Company representative Ilze Žūka said that the evacuation was not related to a safety incident, and the door malfunctioned due to technical reasons.

"In this case, one of the doors opened after a delay. This situation is unacceptable, of course, and Alfa is currently carrying out tests," said Žūka.

She also ventured to say that the evacuation way that leads through a construction site has been okayed by the authorities. Meanwhile Latvia's Fire and Rescue Service says it plans to inspect other emergency exits at the store. 

Building safety is a particularly pressing topic in Latvia. On November 21, 2013 a Maxima supermarket collapsed in Rīga's Zolitūde neighborhood taking 54 lives and injuring many more. Three rescuers died during the tragedy, and court action has been ongoing for years. 

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