Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Cold and a Personal Gas War

About 589 people died from the cold in Ukraine over a 15-day period of record-breaking low temperatures last month, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.

The deaths occurred between January 16 and 31, the ministry said in a statement.

Nearly 7,000 Ukrainians asked for medical help as temperatures dipped to around -25 C (-13 F), but only about half required hospitalization. The ministry said the victims were mostly homeless and intoxicated people. The majority were from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Meanwhile, President Viktor Yushchenko ordered his government Wednesday to end an 11-day-long heating outage in a Ukrainian city by February 11 and said those responsible for the unprecedented long breakdown must be held responsible.

Some 60,000 people have been shivering in unheated apartments in Alchevsk since January 22, when the eastern city's heating system failed during the cold spell.

Read the rest at CNN.

Right now, my in-laws are not living in their normally cosy home. You see, back in the end of November/beginning of December, we helped them to transition warming their home from coal to natural gas. It's far cheaper, even after the assinine Gas War. The piping was done on a reasonable schedule given it was Ukraine as were the structural changes and installation of the water heater (they use a form of radiant heat for the house). All that remained was to get the certificate (of some sort) from the local government that said everything was a-ok (basically the last inspection). erm. It didn't happen. The cost of the brive to make it happen in a timely manner was prohibitive. I might have even been willing to make it happen despite my personal abhorrence because my nephew, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law were all quite, quite cold. They didn't ask us to help because they were already very embarassed that we'd helped them at all with this. So, it didn't happen before the cold snap that has been killing people...and then all the pipes in the house broke spilling water and sewage everywhere. From what they have told my wife, the house is a complete loss now and there's no home owner's insurance. We're at a loss as to what to do.

The only reason we helped at all in the first place, and we did insist, was because a neighbor who ahd some kind of grudge had been bribing the local utility company to not let my in-laws to put in the gas pipes. We had to pay extra just to get the work done. My in-laws couldn't afford that. There looked like an oppurtunity that they could have avoided all the corruption last summer, but for some reason they didn't exploit it.

So, in the end, their house is a sodden, frozen mess, and everyone is out money. And it's very, very cold. And we feel horrible because we were just off skiing and having fun in New Mexico. We didn't hear about it until we returned and called to talk to Lyuda's sister. :( *sighs*

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