E.Idertsog: A revision and resolution for the 448 victims of the Narantuul fire

- Officials have announced that the cause of the Narantuul fire was electrical failure -

By P.Erdenenyam

Two months ago a fire broke out in the grocery section of the international shopping center, Narantuul, and almost 500 vendors lost their assets, jobs and suffered emotional losses as well. Officials worked diligently to determine the cause of the fire. We interviewed the head of the Victimization Department of UMBG Aggravated Crime, E.Idertsog, about the findings.
-The final result of the investigation for the cause of the fire has been released. How did officials work on making the final decision?

-We have just received the final result of the investigation. People are very interested in the decision. According to the findings of expert investigators, a commission of three experts from the Emergency Management Agency, the final result was pronounced on October 24. Looking back at the scene, a fire broke out in the Narantuul International Shopping Center on August 23, at 6:10 a.m., and the first call about the fire was made to the Emergency Management Agency at 6:21 a.m. Despite damage to the roof, it was more likely that the fire broke out on the 1st and 2nd floors. It was difficult to extinguish the fire and save the goods because the middle of the metal roof had fallen.The whole market was damaged, so it was difficult to find out how the electricity was working. But the electricity board was recovered. To put out the fire, our investigators, firemen, and contractors worked for 33 hours.

-What was the main cause of the fire? There are many versions of the story.

-There is no evidence that the fire was set consciously, and fire did not break out as the result of an explosion. It is believed that the fire broke out because of a short in an electricity cable in a cafeteria that was located inside the shopping center. The fire spread quickly, and the location was the reason for the blaze. The fire didn’t break out because of dynamite, gasoline or other explosive materials, but many products present in the market fueled the fire quickly, including gas, perfumes, candles, and large 18 liter containers of butter. Also, when the roof caved in, it crashed into mechanical items. We took a piece of the roof to send to special experts and their findings were similar to our fire analysts.

-Why did the results take so long? 

-I have to say that we have been working very hard on this. We did research and revisions six times. Actually, in every analysis, we invited representatives of the vendors and got 53 different possible causes that were submitted to experts.

-In an interview, the director of Narantuul shopping center said that it was arson. Also, three bullets were found at the center. What do you say about those speculations?

-In a side of beef, we found three bullets. Actually, in Narantuul some people sell the same kind of bullets openly, secretly and illegally. A vendor must have been keeping them at their stall.

-How many people were victims of the fire? How about the cost of damages?

-For this accident, all in all, 448 people gave their testimonies about the fire. A total assessment of losses added up to 16,371,000,000 MNT of products and property. The Special Valuation Commission’s estimate was not far from this. During the investigation, 5,954,000,000 MNT was given to affected vendors. So, over 10 billion MNT is still owed to victims.

-Can you ascertain the reimbursement amount for each vendor? 

-From multiple investigations of the fire, many surplus goods were found to be safe from the fire. Also, we took cash in U.S. dollars that was found. The bills were sent to Mongolbank. Mongolbank helped us and sent experts to determine the denominations of the currency and exchanged it for Mongolian currency. Mongolbank handed over 42 million MNT in cash. I have to say that this was a result of our investigator’s unceasing efforts. We handed the money over to individual vendors by inquiring about the details of each vendor’s claim and conducting detailed interviews. It only affected vendors who had cash stored at their stalls that was lost in the fire.

-So, the foreign currency was exchanged and disbursed?

-We sent a letter to the U.S. judicial sector about counterfeit bills in the amount of 40 thousand U.S. dollars. We are now waiting to see what they decide about their own bank notes.

-It is said that some directors of Narantuul also experienced financial losses in the fire. Are these damages being counted in the estimated losses?

-It is not counted with the estimated losses. We are on the way to determining the estimated value of the building. Presently, the losses that will be added are other expenses for vendors.

-In the damaged section of the market it is said that there were two ATM machines.

-In the shopping center there were two ATM machines. We sent them to Mongolbank and were able to exchange 21 million MNT that was returned to Golomt Bank. From this, it is clear that criminal investigations were very rigorous and inspectors were working for a long time.

-Does this mean that the case will soon be closed?

-From this stage we will find out who the real villain is.

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