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Batumi Hotel Owner Denies Safety Violation Claims

By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, November 28
(BATUMI, Georgia)-- Erol Avgoren, the owner of the Leogrand Hotel in Georgia’s Black Sea resort Batumi, where a deadly blaze killed 11 on November 24, rejected claims that safety norms were regularly ignored or violated in the lead-up to Friday’s tragedy.

“The hotel is in line with all proper safety norms and it has never been fined, as reported by some officials,” said Avgorenin his first public statement since the fire.

Avgoren’s assertions, however, contradict statements made by the hotel’s own lawyer. Kakha Tsereteli, the Leogrand’s legal representative, told local officials and the media shortly after the deadly blaze that the hotel was fined for safety breaches on June 20.

“We’re awaiting the results of the investigation. The hotel was fined on June 20 for not having enough fire extinguishers. The management corrected the problem... but, unfortunately, a tragedy still occurred," said Tsereteli, adding that the company operating the hotel complex is ready to cooperate with the investigation and compensate the families of the victims.

The hotel and its adjoining casino is operated by Turkish resort developer, Mersin Tourism.

Zurab Pataridze, the chair of the Adjaran regional government, told media the day after the fire that the Leogrand had been fined on at least one occasion by the Internal Affairs Ministry due to poor fire safety norms and had earlier been reprimanded by the local Tourism Department.

Fire broke out in the 5-star, 22-storeyLeograndlate on November 24,claiming 11 lives and leaving at least 21 people injured. Of those who were listed among the dead were 10 Georgian citizens and one Iranian. A local firefighter, four Turks and one Israeli were hospitalized for their injuries.

An official investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing, according to government authorities.