Olena Rotari, Daryna Sarhan: Why do houses collapse in Odesa?

Police officer stands guard near the destroyed apartment building on Solomii Krushelnytskoi Street in Kyiv on the morning of June 21, 2020.Photo by Oleg Petrasiuk

ODESA — The safety of Odesa residents is once again being questioned after a recent tragedy that took place in Kyiv, when several floors of an apartment block collapsed. Four people were killed, probably from a gas explosion.

In just two months, South Palmyra, as the Black Sea city of 1 million people is also known, partially lost six houses. This is perhaps the most rapid destruction of a Ukrainian city. Local residents often joke about Odesa not being the first city, nor the second, but in this case, we can say that Odesa has become an absolute leader in the number of collapsed buildings throughout the country.

Nakhimov Lane, Polish Descent, Torgovaya, Srednefontanskaya, Yasnaya, and Manezhnaya streets all have collapsed buildings. This includes architectural monuments, located in different areas of Odesa, but all of them were destroyed by the indifference of local authorities.

Today in Odesa, there are 877 damaged and dilapidated houses. These are official numbers said by Odesa Mayor Gennady Trukhanov. Although last fall, the city department provided data on only 315 emergency and eight life-threatening buildings. During the five-year term of Trukhanov in Odesa, the number of uninhabitable buildings has actually doubled.

Last year, it was planned to allocate 120 million hryvnias ($4.5 million) to repair buildings from the city budget. But judging by the overhaul list, the city government — at the expense of the local treasury — worked only for the future election campaign, focusing on replacing windows and improving playgrounds. At the same time, Trukhanov was generous with the money of Odesa residents for the restoration of the House of Russov. This monument of architecture has not been the property of the city for a long time and belongs to businessman Ruslan Tarpan.

The Odesa mayor spent about 160 million hryvnias ($6 million) on the repair of private property. That is, if the next time you hear from Trukhanov that the city does not have money for the overhaul of emergency buildings, do not believe him. Odesa’s budget for 2020, taking into account transfers, is nearly Hr 10.5 billion hryvnias, or $394 million. Yet expenditures amounted to Hr 9.9 billion, or $371 million. In other words, the Odesa city treasury is abundant. The remainder in the amount of 657 million hryvnias ($24 million) would be enough for Trukhanov to repair the dilapidated houses in Odesa, but the locals no longer hope for a “strong business executive.”

A new mayor will have to repair the destroyed southern Palmyra.

Olena Rotari and Daryna Sarhan are journalists with Channel 7 in Odesa, Ukraine. The TV station is part of the KADORR Group, which owns the Kyiv Post.


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