Four years after the “Colectiv” tragedy, no one has yet been charged

Hundreds of people attended commemorative marches organized in a handful of cities in Romania marking four years since the 2015 Colectiv club fire in Bucharest, which resulted in the deaths of 64 people.

In Kolozsvár/Cluj Napoca, about one hundred participants carrying candles gathered at the Memorandistilor monument, showed pictures of the victims, and listened to the songs of the Romanian band Goodbye to Gravity. In Bucharest, the participants started in Unirii Park and marched towards Şerban Vodă Bridge-Splaiul Unirii-Bucur Street-Bucur Square until they reached the “club of horror,” where they lit more candles and said prayers. Survivors and family members of the victims of the Colectiv fire were among the participants. People have also gathered in Brassó/Brașov, Arad, Szeben/Sibiu, Temesvár/Timișoara, and Jászváros/Iași to commemorate the victims.

Just a few days before the commemoration event, an (up until then) unseen video was aired by Romanian newspaper Libertatea. The footage showed the disastrous and uncoordinated response of the firefighters at the Colectiv club that tragic night. It had been filmed by an under-officer from the Emergency Situations Inspectorate (ISU) but was kept hidden for four years. The filming is part of normal procedure in major interventions and is used to analyze procedures in place and find ways to improve them. Libertatea kept the identity of the video’s source under wraps.

The footage shows a chaotic arrival by emergency crews, lack of organization, and lack of attention for the injured – the exact opposite of the picture painted in the official report presented by the head of the Emergency Situations Department (DSU), Raed Arafat, on the night of the tragedy.

The fire occurred during a free concert performed by the local metal band Goodbye to Gravity to celebrate the release of their new album. The band’s pyrotechnics, consisting of sparkler firework candles, ignited the polyurethane acoustic foam used in the Colectiv club. The fire spread very quickly, and the roughly 400 present in the club at the concert panicked and rushed to the only working exit door at the venue, creating a stampede.

On that day, 27 people lost their lives in the fire, and in the following weeks, more than 30 people died, raising the death toll to 64. The tragedy led to massive street protests and raised serious questions regarding the legality of the government and local authorities handing out permits to such clubs and endangering the lives of people frequenting such places. The protests led to the fall of the Government of Victor Ponta, which was replaced with a technocrat cabinet led by Dacian Ciolos. The protests also yielded a new report, which reached the conclusion that the emergency response was poorly coordinated.

Four years after the tragic event, Raed Arafat claims he is the target of a denigration campaign by Libertatea and alleges that he had no knowledge of the existence of this video. His claims were refuted by a Facebook user who posted a picture from a workshop with Raed Arafat using pictures captured from that specific video.

The family members of the Colectiv tragedy victims filed a criminal complaint against the authorities for the way that they handled the situation. Prosecutors haven’t completed their investigation, and no one has been held accountable for what happened that night in the club of horror.

Title image: Screen capture from the recently leaked video.

Author: István Fekete