Police investigators are expected to continue their final work for at least two more weeks, so the municipal government on July 4 ordered that the clean-up begin as soon as law enforcement authorities give the green light.
Rīga’s municipal property department chief Oļegs Burovs told Latvian Public Television company LTV “we are talking about the disassembly of the above-ground part of the Maxima store, which must be done in two months’ time.” He added that “at the same time, the commission (for buildings degrading the environment) has urged the co-owners to consider the option of razing the entire structure, including the apartment building,” after its meeting Friday.
Victims and their families insist the below-ground parking garage and empty apartment building also be razed. Regīna Ločmele of the Zolitūde 21.11. group threatened protests, “if necessary a people’s movement and a vote of the residents of Zolitūde that we do not wish to see any of this complex anywhere in this entire territory.”
“One of our victims lives on the third floor right next door. She says every day she can’t look at what’s there! I don’t know if the owners don’t have the millions to buy out these properties and get out of the business. This business will bring no good,” Ločmele said.
“See, this house has already been ghoulishly nicknamed – House of Ghosts, House of Corpses, House of the Doomed. So deal with the fact that to residents here at least for the next 10, 20, 30 years this place is cursed,” said Imants Burvis, a relative of one of the deceased.
The building complex is owned jointly by Homburg Zolitūde and Tineo, the latter having agreed the victims’ group’s demand. “We plan no economic activity on this site,” said Tineo’s attorney Dace Silava-Tomsone. “We are on our part prepared to do all we can to create a memorial site here. But we are of course dependent upon our co-owners Homburg with whom we must coordinate all decisions pertaining to this place,” she explained.
Homburg has not rushed to agree to the pulling-down of its still-standing vacant apartment building.
In a related development lawyers for construction specialist Ivars Sergets appealed to overturn the Association of Civil Engineers’ annulment of his professional certificate Wednesday, saying this looked as if the NGO were trying to make their client into a scapegoat for the tragedy.
“The Civil Engineers’ Association itself ruled to extend the term of Sergets’ certificate in 2013, and cited that particular Maxima project as one of two grounds for the decision,” objected Artūrs Zvejsalnieks on behalf of his client.
Last month scientists at the Institute of Polymer Mechanics at the University of Latvia warned that similar tragedies could be waiting to happen owing to the widespread use and certified approval of untested materials like those suspected of having caused the Maxima store collapse on November 21, 2013. Vilis Skruls, a research assistant there told LTV news program Panorama that the last new building whose armatures were tested by the institute was Swedbank’s headquarters skyscraper Saules akmens, put into commission in 2004.