Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Death on the lake traced home


Immediately after the news of the terrible life loss in the Ohrid Lake on September 5, 2009 hit me a weird sensation crossed my mind: I knew it! I knew this should happen!
I had never suffered from any sort of professy complex before and felt quite puzzled by this surprising thought. I then realized that it was due to my overwhelming experience with travelling around Bulgaria over the last three weeks. Gross, absurd negligence of human safety and life was what I had encountered uninteruptedly while driving Bulgaria's roads. And it was Bulgarian people I had been observing risking the lives of others, including my life and the lives of my children, and - most shockingly - risking their own lives and their own children too.
How would you call someone who is driving full speed overtaking into a zero visibility curve? Suicidal. Life gambler. Murderer. What if his own wife and kids are sitting in the car? Sick. One thing is for sure - I would not trust such a person to care or be responsible for anyone's safety. Neither if he sells food or toys, nor if he drives a taxi, bus or a train. And certainly not if he sails a boat full of tourists. In any case one would expect that authorities of law - or medical - enforcement should prevent such people from harming others or themselves. In vain. Hundreds of innocent lives had been lost in Bulgaria in the months prior to the Ohrid Lake disaster: in accidents involving cars, buses, trucks, and even a burning train. Each of these cases had been reported widely by mass media and investigated. But little had been said and done to change the culture of neglect and irresponsibility to human safety and health, and to improve the laws and institutions that should safeguard them.
For the record, the boat full of Bulgarians had sank on that day abroad, in Macedonia. But the Ochrid tragedy seemed like a detail of the same bloody panorama of neglect and irresponsibilty to me. To my surprise Bulgarian mass media were not quick to make this connection. They covered neatly the actions and speeches of polititians, followed the checks of tour operators' licenses, and took the striking personal accounts of the surviers. But it was not until today actually that I came across a media report which traces the true reasons for the sinking of the Ilinden from Ochrid into Bulgaria. This was done by Sega daily reporting on Nikolay Apostolov, the head of Bulgaria's Maritime Administration in Varna, who admited that the same irregularities which lead to the Ochrid incident exist throughout the Bulgarian tourist fleet as well. Apostolov has reportedly initiated an inspection of all Bulgarian ferries and other vessels for compliance with existing Bulgarian safety regulations. So there is hope!

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