On Wednesday, at 4:43 in the morning, the rescuers got a call to Merķeļa Street in Rīga city center where a six-storey building's roof and top floor were on fire.
Eight people are confirmed to have died in the fire. It was initially reported by the VUGD on Twitter that seven people had died but another victim was found later.
Six other people have been hospitalized with burns and smoke inhalation.
People who wish to find out whether their loved ones have been involved are invited to call the State Police on 67829250.
State Police representative Andrejs Grišins said at a press conference that currently the victims' identities will not be disclosed publicly.
Victims are asked to turn to Rīga social services (Rīgas sociālais dienests) for help and accommodation. The phone numbers to call are 80005055 and 67105048. Rīga Mayor Mārtiņš Staķis said at a press briefing that "specialists have been employed to help with the language barrier. There are algorithms in place for accommodation and other help."
A dedicated e-mail address for victims and their loved ones has been created at [email protected]
Rīga social services website is available here (in Latvian and Russian).
Saistībā ar Rīgā, Merķeļa ielā notikušo ugunsgrēku ir izveidots vienotais tel.numurs +371 67829250 un e-pasta adrese: [email protected] Piederīgajiem zvanot vai rakstot, iespējams noskaidrot aktuālo informāciju saistībā ar ugunsgrēkā bojā gājušajiem: https://t.co/qAgNGCWrNH pic.twitter.com/L44Y7IbK6n— Valsts policija (@Valsts_policija) April 28, 2021
The burning building is state property, currently in use as a hostel and most victims are foreigners, according to Rīga mayor Mārtiņš Staķis. The nationalities and identities of the victims have yet to be released. Staķis said in a media briefing that the property was technically a private apartment being used as a hostel without the necessary permission and documentation. According to the State Police, the hostel had been on police and VUGD radar since March due to concerns about fire safety in the hostel as well as not observing the epidemiological restrictions.
An eyewitness told Latvian Television that she had heard an explosion.
Firefighters are still working at the scene. Traffic has been suspended on Merķeļa Street from Čaka to Barona Street. Traffic will be suspended until at least 9 in the morning, said VUGD. Public transport is not stopping at the stops on that section of the street.