DURO’S RUSSIA NOTES…

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FIRE IN THE BUILDING, EVACUATE!

Those who have never experienced an emergency situation of fire alarm in a 15-story building will not understand what some of us (Nigerian journalists) went through this morning here in St Petersburg, Ruassia. Let me give you the preamble.

On arrival here in Russia for the World Cup three days to the June 14 kick off date at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, one was filled with excitement of going to tour at least eight of the 11 Russian cities designated to host the 2018 Mundial. Of course, having visited Moscow as first time visitor in 2013 for the IAAF World Championships where Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor equaled Nigeria’s best outing at the competition, winning a silver and bronze in the 200m and long jump, I truly wanted to know and feel the rest of the Russian cities.

Trips to Essentuki (Super Eagles’ Base Camp), Kaliningrad, Volgograd, St Petersburg, Moscow and Kazan, have really given this reporter more insight about the Russian than his first time out here. And St Petersburg, with its beauty and warmth to foreigners, appeals more to me to warrant my making the place my base. Imposing four-star Park Inn by Radisson Pribaltyskaya was first home for a couple of days before opting for a more manageable accommodation in an apartment building in Pulkovskoe area of St Petersburg.

Unlike the Park Inn, the Salut Apartments are three imposing 15-story buildings overlooking the Mercedes Centre on the highway from the Pulkovo Airport. Apart from its alluring facilities that make the place home away from home, it is less than 20 minutes drive away from one of the busy airports servicing Russia’s second biggest city.

But our love for the place almost turned sour with an early morning alarm signal thursday. Few minutes after the alarm, a voice in Russian boomed through the speakers in each of the apartments. We were lost of what was happening until another voice whipped the three Nigerian journalists, (Vanguard’s Tony Ubani, Christian Okpara of The Guardian and my humble self) into panic mode. The voice simply said: “Vacate the building there is fire.” Fire? How, where? The three of us sprang out of our rooms into the lobby of the 8th floor. While one dashed towards the lift, another started screaming no use of lift in time of fire like this. Funny enough, the two exit points were written in Russian language but we had to use our initiatives to follow the direction of the arrow which ultimately led us to the staircase. In what appears to be race for life, we hopped several steps to ensure we beat other nationals also trying to get out of the building which is the Block A. In less than three minutes we were down at the reception try to catch our breath. Five other Nigerians who came in from the UK but also resident in the building also joined us in safety at the designated points.

We looked out for where the fire was burning in any of the floors, but there was none. Most staff of the apartment were going about their duties as if nothing was amiss. Then, one lady who appears as the Manager of the Salut Apartments came to address us that what we have just experienced was routine for their guests. She said it was meant to keep everyone in the high-rise building in check and to know what to do in case of an emergency. Did we feel angry? Your guess was right: “This Oyinbo people dey craze, why dem go dey play with something like fire?” muttered my colleague Ubani of Vanguard.

Reminded that it was good that we have known our ways round the emergency exit points in building, that sort of quelled the early morning false fire alarm. It was worth all the stress as I now know what to do in case of similar situation next time. No panic is the watchword that we learnt.