Eight people (some foreigners) were killed in a fire in a building containing a hostel, which authorities said was illegally operated in the center of Riga, the capital of Helsinki-Latvia.
Firefighters and rescue teams from the Latvian Fire Rescue Team said they had been warned at the site of Merkel Street in central Riga around 5 am.
The 6th floor and roof of the building burned, and rescue teams found eight people dead. According to the news agency Baltic News Service, they evacuated an additional 24 people. At least 6 people were hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation.
Latvian state television broadcast footage of flames falling from the top of the building, multiple fire trucks, and a ladder extending to the top. From there, two firefighters pointed their hoses at the flames.
Latvian officials and Riga mayor Martins Stakis said the state-owned building had an illegal hostel and operators had recently unlicensed renovations.
Some of the victims currently identified were probably foreigners, Stakis told reporters. The building is located in the commercial center of Riga, near the city’s main bus and train stations.
It was not immediately clear where and how the fire broke out, but Latvian officials said the property was technically a private apartment and was used as a hostel without the necessary fire. Safety and other permits said to be at the center of the cause investigation.
Stakis said on Twitter that the hostel was operated illegally without documentation, based on information received from police: “The burnt building is dominated by foreigners, perhaps foreign students, who have used the hostel’s services. “.
The website of the hostel called “Japanese-style Centrum Riga” states that the address is Mercera Street 8, Apartment 21. It says there are 22 rooms.
According to Latvian public broadcaster LSM, the hostel has been monitored by police and the State Fire Rescue Team (SFRS) since March due to concerns about fire safety and the facility’s non-compliance with existing COVID-19 restrictions. It was placed below.
Martins Baltmanis, Deputy Director of SFRS, said his office had previously been informed by building residents about the possibility of any construction of the apartment. Reports of drug use inside the building were also reported to police. In March, the LSM reported that the hostel was fined € 500 ($ 600) for failing to comply with official orders.