September 25
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After the inspection of Surmalu shopping center, the Inspection Body of Urban Development, Technical and Fire Safety made an inspection report, which noted all the shortcomings and issued an order with the indication of measures and deadlines for mandatory implementation, Ruben Khachunts, head of the department for technical and fire safety of the UTFSIB, said on the air of the Public Television.

"In addition, since there were violations at the time of the inspection, of course, an administrative procedure was carried out and an administrative penalty was imposed on the director," he said.

According to him, in the case of the first violation under the law is a fine of 25-50 thousand drams. If then the requirement of the decree is not met, that is, the violation is committed for the second time, the fine is 150,000 drams, but for this inspection must conduct a second inspection.

He said that in 2021 the inspection body conducted 396 inspections at various high risk facilities and 249 repeated inspections. In the first half of this year, there were 254 inspections and 66 re-inspections. "We planned to conduct a repeat inspection of the said object [the Surmalu shopping center - ed.] in the fall, more precisely by November," he said, noting that in the case of Surmalu, 16 different violations were identified, and different deadlines were given for their correction.

In response to the observation that there is no mention of the presence of flammable materials in Surmalu in such quantities, Khachunts assured that if they are not mentioned in the documents, it means that at the time of the inspection there were none.

 "However, since a criminal case has been opened and a preliminary investigation is underway, it seems to me that the preliminary investigation will clarify all of this," he said, not ruling out that these materials could have been in the warehouses after the inspection.

When asked by the host who was ultimately to blame for the tragedy, the official replied that the lion's share of the blame lies with the host facility.  "However, these spaces were given to different tenants. What were those tenants doing? That also needs to be found out.  Blaming the landlord alone is wrong," he said, adding that the landlord might not have known what was in the warehouse.

When asked about the inefficiency of UTFSIB, Khachunts stated that 20 percent of facilities in Armenia are classified as high risk and that's about 8000 facilities and that his office can check 500 facilities annually which doesn't include repeat checks. According to him, it would take 16 years to inspect all those facilities just once. "I wish we had more resources and were able to do more intensive inspections," he said, adding that the agency has already asked for more staff and has been promised more staff.

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