As a few embers still smouldered in the Plovdiv “Tobacco Town” warehouses devastated by fire two days earlier, Bulgaria’s Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov said that the owners should be tracked down and forced to restore the buildings to their original appearance.
His statement, during a visit on August 22 to the site of the blaze, was reminiscent of what he had said months earlier about the case of Plovdiv’s 8 Odrin Street tobacco warehouse attempted demolition – that he was ordering the owners to rebuild.
In that case, the chief architect of Plovdiv and the representative of the owners of the historic building face numerous criminal charges over the attempt to raze the warehouse in March 2016. In the months since then, little or nothing has happened about protecting and restoring the building, apart from the municipality voting a few thousand leva to protect the roof.
Looking on the four burnt-out warehouses in Bulgaria’s second city – the one that will be European Capital of Culture in 2019, a matter of pride for residents but also a matter for bitter irony among the many Bulgarians deeply upset by the August 21 fire – Rashidov described himself as “shocked”.
He said that he would table a proposal to amend the Cultural Heritage Act so that “such violations” could be penalised with a fine of up to 30 000 leva (about 15 000 euro).
The cause of the inferno is not yet known, whether it was a case of arson or an accident.