True Lithuania

Riga store collapse sends ripples accross Lithuania

2013 11 28. The collapse of Maxima supermarket roof in Riga (Latvia) which left 54 dead on 2013 11 21 is still a hot topic across the Baltic States, all three of which are equally unused to such disasters. Latvian government of Valdis Dombrovskis resigned yesterday over the issue and the Latvian president Andris Bērziņš called the event "a murder of an enormous amount of defenceless people".

Who was the "murderer" is still unclear, however. Maxima store chain is Lithuanian-owned and is, in fact, the flagship of the largest Lithuanian group of companies, notable for its massive investments in Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria and elsewhere, and for being the Lithuania's largest employer.

However, the Maxima group acquired the now-collapsed building only in 2012 after it has already been developed by Homburg (a Canadian multinational real estate company) which in turn hired Latvian contractors and architects for the 2011 construction works.

Prior to the collapse, Homburg was expanding the said real estate project with the creation of green roof over the supermarket and construction of a 9-floor residential nearby. Homburg also operates in Lithuania where it has 8 projects under development.

An international investigation will likely answer whether the supermarket roof collapsed due to initial construction fault, design flaws, illegal modifications, mistakes in the building of the green roof / nearby residential or other reasons. Who is responsible depends on this and given such a massive death toll the court sentences may be harsh.

The questions of possible corruption (if an inadequate building was accepted by the Latvian state agencies) linger. Given the similar societies and histories of Lithuania and Latvia, Lithuanian institutions launched a campaign to check the stability of the nation's main buildings.

Meanwhile ordinary Lithuanians have been showing solidarity to their "brother nation" Latvians and brought candles to the Maxima stores in Lithuania as well as Latvian embassy in Vilnius over the weekend.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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