While fire-related deaths in Estonia fell slightly in 2020 compared with previous years, figures for both drowning deaths and homicides have risen significantly, reaching five-year and seven-year highs respectively. The pandemic has been a factor behind the increase in drownings in particular, daily Postimees reported.
A total of 36 fire-related fatalities had occurred in 2020 to Tuesday, BNS reports, seven fewer than in 2019 and 14 fewer than 2018.
Both this year and in 2019, the majority of fatalities were also drink-related, though that proportion had fallen to 59 percent this year, from 89 percent the previous year. The majority of fire fatalities this year were among men, BNS reports.
Drowning deaths conversely saw a five-year high this year, at 58 as of Tuesday.
2019's figure of 36 had already been reached in July, BNS reports.
Head of the Rescue Board's (Päästeamet) civil protection and prevention office Viktor Saaremets reiterated that alcohol was a major factor in both hazards.
He said: "More than half of those killed in water accidents and fires were drunk, and the average degree of intoxication has been high."
The coronavirus pandemic has also been a factor in the rise in drowning deaths, he said, with suicide suspected in a significant number of cases, and also the end of the emergency situation in mid-May leading to large numbers of people heading out to bodies of water, often drinking alcohol at the same time.
The average age of drowning deaths has also risen, he added, with slips or falls into water behind over half the cases, Saaremets said.
Murders and manslaughters
Homicides have seen an increase in 2020 too, from 29 in 2019, to 50 in 2020, including 13 murders – a seven-year high.
Andres Kirsing, chief law enforcement officer at the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) told Postimees that there had been no major change in circumstances surrounding murders and manslaughters, though exceptions to this included January's drink-driving fatal accident on Saaremaa, which killed three and whose perpetrator is charged with murder, and the Lihula shooting in June, in which two people died.
Generally, perpetrators and victims of murders and manslaughters are known to each other and have been involved in lifestyles where alcohol played a central role, and also complex social backgrounds, Kirsing added. Arguments and disputes, which can be about seemingly innocuous things such as a misplaced wallet, often escalate into violent attacks using not only knives or guns but also blunt objects which happen to be close to hand, he said
One fifth of murders and manslaughters involved close relationships, meaning 14 people were killed by relatives or next of kin, Kirsing said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte