The British expatriate community in Bulgaria is being drawn in to help families of victims of the fatal explosion in the north-eastern village of Hitrino, it emerged on December 12, as the government voted 10 million leva assistance and private donations to the Bulgarian Red Cross fund-raising drive rose.
British ambassador Emma Hopkins met members of the UK expat community in Veliko Turnovo on December 12, for what had been intended to be singing of Christmas carols, though this aspect was cancelled because of the day of national mourning for the victims of Hitrino.
A donations box was put out, and Hopkins said that at the carol service at the British Residence in Sofia at the end of the week, there would also be a collection for the people of Hitrino, Bulgarian National Radio reported.
The Bulgarian Red Cross earlier launched a fund-raising drive, to which contributions may be made by sending a text to number 1466 via any of the Bulgarian mobile phone operators’ networks, or by making donations online.
On December 12, five of the seven people who died in the explosion this past Saturday were given a burial service in front of the largest mosque in Bulgaria, the Tombul Mosque in the town of Shoumen.
Ten imams read prayers, after which the bodies were sent for burial in the villages of Boyan, Cherna and Strahilitsa.
Those who were buried on Monday were Tamer Yusuf, Deniz Yusuf, Akif Ragul, Feime Alayidin and Hanife Ali. The identities of the remaining two dead in the Hitrino gas transport train explosion are to be established through DNA tests.
The burials were conducted in villages neighbouring Hitrino because the village itself is sealed off while transfers of gas from the remaining tanks are proceeding.
On December 12, Bulgaria’s Ombudsman, Maya Manolova, handed Hitrino mayor Nuridin Basri food vouchers to the value of 11 100 leva.
Speaking on Monday, President Rossen Plevneliev called for solidarity and sympathy after the tragedy in Hitrino.
“I appeal to every one of you, to every compatriot – let us open our hearts, let us show our commitment, let us be in solidarity with the families of those killed, and the injured, let us be with them at this difficult time,” Plevneliev said.
Bulgaria’s outgoing European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva expressed her sympathy to the victims and their relatives.
“At such times, the best response is to show that we are in solidarity,” Georgieva said.
The European Commission had contacted the Bulgarian authorities and offered help to restore the infrastructure, she said.
“I discussed the situation with my colleagues in the European Commission and I am sure that action is being taken to find the necessary resources to meet the needs,” Georgieva said.
Earlier, it emerged that the heads of government of the State of Israel, Turkey and Hungary had offered the Bulgarian government assistance regarding Hitrino, though Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov had thanked for them their condolences and said that the country would deal with the recovery using its own resources.
(Photo: Bulgarian Interior Ministry)