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Transcript of meeting on fire-fighting and disaster relief efforts in Central Russia

July 30, 2010, Gorki, Moscow Region

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon,

Today is turning out to be a difficult day: there have been many fires and some of them have had a truly catastrophic impact. Right now, the Government is working on my instruction in various Russian regions; Prime Minister is in the Nizhny Novgorod Region; I will be communicating with him later and he will tell me about the situation.

First, I would like to talk with the Regional Development Minister, because in addition to disaster relief (right now, the Ministry of Emergency Situations is working on it, and I hope that everything’s on the right course), the events in the Nizhny Novgorod Region will clearly bring on problems.

These problems have to do with the need to provide housing to a very large number of people. Once, a long time ago, I myself participated in disaster relief following an earthquake, so I know how slow this process can be.

And in spite of the fact that summer this year is very hot (abnormally hot, and this is the reason behind the fires), it will end sooner or later. And gradually, it will turn into winter – a very cold winter.

We need to get working, so that we can allocate the appropriate amount of money and quickly build at least temporary housing, or begin building permanent housing straight away. The Government of the Russian Federation and the regional governments must earmark funds in their budgets for these purposes. I would like to know how you plan to organise this process.

Minister of Regional Development Viktor Basargin: Mr President,

At this time, experts from the Regional Development Ministry have been sent to all the affected regions. Today, together with the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the regions, we are looking into he situation, studying it, and analysing everything that has happened.

On the Prime Minister’s instruction, we already had a discussion with the Finance Ministry and roughly determined the amount of financing we will need. I can say that according to our data, the average floor space of a house affected by fire ranges between 80 and 100 square metres; in other words, overall, our citizens have lost about 150 thousand square metres of housing.

Dmitry Medvedev: In all the territories?

Viktor Basargin: Yes. We will continue our monitoring of the situation, for I think these are not the final data.

Our goal now is to look into the possibility of restoring infrastructure in every town; I am referring to public utility infrastructure, including water and gas supply, and the possibility of reconstructing housing on the same sites.

And the challenge before us is a complicate one. We are looking into how we can mobilise the construction sector. We have already analysed our construction capacity for rapidly-constructed housing: we currently have some 36 such facilities in these regions.

We have analysed six regions, and they have between three and eight companies engaged in manufacturing of elements for rapidly constructed housing. But we can look farther out as well, so that we may be able to get additional building materials.

We will be reconstructing metre by metre. A few multiple-apartment buildings were destroyed, in two regions so far. They are small four- and eight-apartment buildings, and we will be reconstructing those as well. Perhaps some other technologies can be used in this case.

This will basically be typical, rapidly constructed housing; the new apartments and houses might be a few square metres bigger than the ones people had before. And even in cases when the previous housing lacked certain amenities, we will try to connect the new housing to utility services, if possible, improving it in parallel.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. What standards do you use to determine the amount of money needed for construction?

Viktor Basargin: A standard that is in line with the one established by the Regional Development Ministry; no more than thirty thousand rubles per square metre at most.

Mr President, our data show that the rapidly-constructed housing manufacturers we have identified are currently offering to build just the “box,” without any infrastructure, at a price between sixteen and a half thousand to nineteen and a half thousand [rubles] at most.

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. In other words, you feel that this money will be enough – the money allotted based on the construction standards?

Viktor Basargin: Yes.

Dmitry Medvedev: And how much time will it take?

Viktor Basargin: It looks like we can get all this reconstruction done – perhaps not before winter starts, but by the end of the year.

Dmitry Medvedev: By the end of this — current — year?

Viktor Basargin: Yes, this year.

Dmitry Medvedev: If that’s how it will be carried out, we do not have much time – just five months – so we will need to think about temporary housing.

Naturally, this is the responsibility of the regions, of regional governors, but we need to analyse the federal capabilities as well – federal reserves related to housing.

Viktor Basargin: We will certainly make provisions, Mr President.

Dmitry Medvedev: Then let’s do just that. We will need to draw up a separate programme for every region affected by the fires, to provide temporary housing for people who have lost their houses and to quickly build housing using modern, high-quality materials, but based on rapid-construction technologies, just as you said, within the financing limits we have set. If there is a need for any additional financing, I am ready to give the appropriate instructions to the Government. It’s agreed.

Viktor Basargin: Very well.

Dmitry Medvedev: Now, Ms Golikova, please, give us a brief report on the situation as regards your work. Unfortunately, the fires claimed several lives, so it is imperative to provide adequate compensation to the families of the victims. There are also individuals who were injured; we do not currently have an exact number. Although the fire-fighters are working very actively and bravely, unfortunately, there are some casualties among them too. There are also those who were injured, and we must take all the necessary steps, make all the decisions concerning those who fell ill and those who have carbon monoxide poisoning, or have simply sustained burns, because we have a number of these individuals in various areas.

And as far as I understand, another problem may have to do with the fact that a significant number of people have lost their housing, and we must at least provide them with temporary housing and ensure normal sanitary and epidemiologic conditions. People need to have access to doctors, because these people have suffered a tremendous psychological stress and are lacking the comforts they used to have, so we must not lose control over medical and sanitary and epidemiologic situation.

Minister of Healthcare and Social Development Tatyana Golikova: Mr President, Our ministry is a part of the Ministry of Emergency Situations’ team, and together with them we monitor the situation as it unfolds in all the regions. Naturally, at this time, we feel that the most alarming situation, based in part on the parameters you spoke about, is in the Voronezh Region. In this regard, I would like to say that in general, we have established a smooth-running interaction plan with the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the regions as regards medical assistance. Nevertheless, if necessary, we are ready to evacuate the injured to central cities if it becomes necessary; the reserve hospital beds that are used in emergency situations are always ready. But just to give you the figures, I will say that according to our data, the Voronezh Region has had 439 individuals admitted to medical facilities; as of today, 377 people have been discharged and 43 people are at hospitals in serious condition. If it becomes necessary to either send specialists there in order to improve medical treatment, or to transfer these patients to other facilities, our Ministry and the Ministry of Emergency Situations are ready – we traditionally work jointly in these cases. As for accommodations, naturally, as a responsible federal agency, we are taking our own measures, but I have a request to our regions: in places where people are being temporarily lodged after having left their homes because of this situation, I request that they are provided with the necessary food products, water, and medicine, and that the infection control is in place, although I understand that it is fairly difficult to do this quickly. Nevertheless, we will make the appropriate recommendations on this matter to the regions.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Ms Golikova. Please do that, because the situation is very difficult. Today, I spoke with everyone engaged in disaster-relief efforts – the Emergency Situations Minister, the Governors, and the Prime Minister. Overall, I must admit that this kind of disaster can happen in other regions as well. Naturally, We need to take all the necessary preventive measures, but overall, this does not always depend entirely on us or on our capabilities. Thus, we need to be ready to hold all the necessary meetings and videoconferences with regional governors and to give them the appropriate instructions.


July 30, 2010, Gorki, Moscow Region