Gas attack, round 2: Not the children!

So you didn’t believe me when I wrote about being gassed out of a popular St. Petersburg bar?  Well, it happened again, this time at the St. Petersburg Secondary School Specializing in English and Finnish.

Caveat: I wasn’t there, but I trust my sources.  A group of kids apparently didn’t want to take an exam and went a step beyond playing hooky by dropping some type of heavy-duty tear gas.  It spread throughout the second and third floors of the building, so my Russian friend who works at the school decided with another teacher to lead all the students and staff to the first floor.

Here’s where things get ridiculous.  The director of the school ordered everyone back to work and locked them inside.  The teachers couldn’t open their office window, and the gas soon became unbearable.  Everyone was coughing and crying and generally being miserable, so when a doctor arrived she naturally advised a hasty retreat to the courtyard.  The director again told everyone to go back to work, but this time they remained outside until the gas had sufficiently dispersed.

The worst part is, one teacher experienced some sort of heart seizure as a result of the gas and is still in the hospital.  As for my friend, she has to stick a needle in herself twice a day to ward off lingering effects of the gas.

The hands-off approach to public safety has often surprised me here, but this blatant disregard for people’s — not to mention children’s — health takes it to a new level.  That is, unless you consider the fire at a Moscow business institute last year, when another group of students found their escape barred by a locked door.

At least this time, nobody died. This is a small consolation, however, since safety is obviously still an unresolved issue here in Russia. Unheeded safety codes are undoubtedly a main factor, but there also seems to be a cultural attitude that to prepare for the worst is at best unnecessary and at worst akin to admitting defeat.

Luckily, I spend most of my day on the second floor of my university. And I’m going straight out the window at the first whiff of trouble.

The fire extinguisher my friend's Russian host family is required to keep handy.

The fire extinguisher my friend's Russian host family is required to keep handy. This regulation, of course, is enforced by Americans. If the Russians don't meet it, they don't get paid.


One Response to “Gas attack, round 2: Not the children!”

  1. OK, I can see that in situations heading out of control, tear gas MIGHT be used, but why on earth would they lock people in? And this was done twice, so it seems to be what follows tear gas in Russia. Why is this? I don’t understand the logic … This story is appalling, perhaps even more so than an “ordinary tear-gassing” because it happened at a secondary school. Why do they want to go to such absurd lengths to keep people/children inside?

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