Tragic start to New Year in Latvia with lives lost

2019 has got off to the worst of starts with Latvia's State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) reporting larger loss of life than in recent years, according to VUGD spokeswoman Inta Palkavniece.

Four people lost their lives due to fires over four days, with seven more injured. It is the worst loss of life since 2015 when five people died.

Palkavniece told Latvian Radio January 2 that during the holiday period, one person who had fallen through the ice was saved from drowning. The VUGD was also called to other incidents of people falling through ice, but in these cases the victims had managed to save themselves when rescuers arrived.

Palkavniece pointed out that due to large temperature fluctuations in Latvia at the moment, ice may seem stable in places, but in reality is much weaker than it appears. She also emphasized that adults should set a responsible example to children regarding venturing onto the ice and repeated the VUGD's advice to install fire detectors in private buildings.

Between 29 December and 2 January the VUGD received 181 call-outs: 86 to put out fires, 57 for rescue operations, and 38 false calls.

The year-end death tallies give cause for concern. 83 people died in fires in Latvia in 2018 - an increase on 2017's total of 79. Similarly, 118 dead bodies were pulled from the water by rescuers in 2018, an increase on 2017's total of 102.


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