Photo of the month of December


The sixth of December, lunchtime, a day like any other. The pre-Christmas atmosphere was everywhere, and nobody had any idea of what would happen in a few short minutes.

Photo: Patrik Minár – Explosion on Mukačevská street

“When I left the restaurant, I heard a strange and continuous booming, which didn’t sound like the boom of an aircraft. This was something completely different. At that moment, I still had no idea what had happened. My phone began to bing and when I took a look, people from my neighbourhood were giving awful updates: APARTMENT BLOCK ON MUKAČEVSKÁ STREET HAS EXPLODED. This particular street was on the way from my lunch venue to the studio. When I approached Jazdecká street and the bridge to Mukačevská it was immediately clear to me that it was huge.

Across the Torysa river, you could see a twelve-storey apartment block in flames, with thick black smoke coming from the top three floors. I tried to get to the studio as fast as I could, grab my camera bag and return to the place of the explosion. Although it only took me ten minutes, the police had already closed the access road and there was nothing for it but to park at the filling station and go the rest of the way on foot. As I got closer, I met people running away from the site of the explosion, and some who were heading towards the apartment block. Sirens were wailing and lights were flashing on all sides. Finally, I arrived at the site. The sight was unforgettable – the apartment block was on fire, people were calling for help. The concrete panels on the upper storeys had been blown out by the pressure wave so that where before there had been a panel with a window, there was now just a gaping hole where you could see furniture strewn about. There were a lot of people standing around. The police and ambulance service were already on site.

I stopped, laid my bag on the ground and because the police had put tape up at a safe distance, I attached the telephoto lens. I looked up at the eleventh storey, which looked like it had been bombed. An older man was standing at the edge of the open room calling for help. At that moment there was a fire engine with an extending ladder just under the building which the elderly man was looking intently at, waiting to be saved. After ten minutes, the vehicle turned around and left. At the time, nobody knew why. The fallen ruins in front of the apartment block on the car park had prevented access to the building, while there was also the danger of further panels from the upper storeys collapsing. At that moment, I took the photo of the old man. I had no idea that in a short time the entire upper storeys would go up in flames. I went round to look at the other side where rescue work was underway using ladders. I took a few shots and went back to the old man. After a moment he disappeared in thick black smoke and then flames shot up from the place where he had been standing a moment ago and I didn’t see him again. We all realised what had happened…

Two floors beneath him, a child was pulled out of a window on the side of the building, immediately followed by his mother. That was one of the positive moments of the entire Friday disaster. I know that even through nobody clapped, I could feel the heartfelt joy that that those people had been saved.

When I published the photographs, the media asked me for this one, which they called iconic. I realised that this photo should remind people who take a lax approach to technical, construction or other work that they can endanger not just themselves, but also the lives of others. In 2015 during an attempt at breaking the Slovak record for number of parachutists, I survived the collision of two aircraft. In that accident, caused by human error, we lost seven people – friends, fathers, brothers and husbands,” says Patrik Minár.

Patrik Minár

Patrik Minár was born in 1974 in Prešov. He studied electrical engineering at the same time his sister was studying photography. They both took photos in the evening, and then developed them in a small darkroom. His sister later became a nurse, and Patrik first focused on sports photography, and then portraits. He currently focuses on documentary and social documentary photography. He enjoys travelling to places without tourists. Through his documentary work, he tries to portray a different perspective on the lives of local people.

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