Revisiting The Colectiv Club Fire: A Legacy Of Broken Lives And Unanswered Questions
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October 30, 2023 marks the 8th anniversary of the Colectiv tragedy that scarred Romania’s history forever. 65 young lives were lost on that night, and countless others became direct or indirect victims of the fire but so far, nothing seems to have changed in the medical system.
On October 30, 2015, Colectiv Club hosted a concert by the underground rock band Goodbye to Gravity for the release of their new album, Mantras of War. The hall was packed with people, mostly very young fans and journalists. At approximately 10:30 PM, a pyrotechnics show caused one of the pillars holding the ceiling to catch fire. The flames engulfed the ceiling within seconds. Footage from the moment of the tragedy shows hundreds of people trying desperately to escape the burning hall, but the only available exit trapped them inside.
By the time the ambulances arrived, the area outside the club looked like a gory warzone. There was not enough medical aid for all the victims, so many had to be driven to the hospital by taxis, witnesses, or friends.
One of the first firefighters to enter the club declared: “Among the bodies of the young people who didn’t make it out of the club were cellphones that continued to ring incessantly. I looked at the screens, and every one of them displayed ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ calling.”
27 people died on the spot either burned alive or from smoke inhalation. 37 others died in hospital from infections and other complications. One survivor died by suicide, and even though official records only mention 64 victims, he is nonetheless the 65th casualty of the Colectiv Fire. Among the victims were 4 out of the 5 members of Goodbye to Gravity, journalists, artists, designers, photographers, college students, high schoolers, and foreigners.
What followed were days of protests in every major city in Romania and even in other countries with a high Romanian population. People asked for change and for those responsible to be punished. Opposing the people in the streets were the ones who chose to hide in the virtual space, especially on Facebook, and blame the victims for “listening to satanic music” and for “organizing distractions with moves against the church.”
The corrupt medical system remains the same
Close to 200 people were treated in hospital for burns and other injuries caused by the fire in the Colectiv Club. Many of them, including the 37 victims who died in the hospital, caught infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Most of those barely survived, and ended up with deep scars from the infected burns. Among them was Alexandra Furnea who openly spoke about her struggles in interviews, and in her best-selling memoir “Diary of 66.”
Nothing has changed since then. The problems in the medical system, dirty and broken burn ward beds, unsanitary hospitals, and nosocomial infections are far from being solved, and the use of public spaces without fire safety and emergency protection measures in place is still allowed.
Romania still lacks specialized hospitals for treating major burn victims, despite the initial promises to build four of them after Colectiv. Only one of them started being built in Timisoara in June 2023. In the summer of 2023, the country was caught unprepared yet again, when an explosion in Crevedia left 57 people severely burned. Only 12 of them were transferred abroad.
In September 2023, the independent investigation outlet Context.ro showed how the Romanian Ministry of Health was hiding documents containing over 30,000 cases of in-hospital infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When it comes to patients with open wounds, these infections are often deadly.