Oh dear – I read about the fire on Geografigränd in Umeå earlier today (it was mentioned on national Swedish TV), but as it turns out, the fire was in the complex right next to where I used to live (Matematikgränd 1).
I should perhaps point out that some of the Swedish papers and TV stations make two mistakes in their reporting: Geografigränd and Matematikgränd are on Ålidhem but these are ordinary apartments and not student housing and the houses are not high-rise buildings – they are “ordinary” 3- and 4-storey buildings.
One thing that I find rather unsettling is that the ventilation systems aren’t isolated so that the fire apparently could spread from one shaft to the others. The good thing is that nobody appear to have been physically hurt but it is still a terrible chock to those families who have to leave their homes for a shorter or longer period.
And one more note: I remember that the housing company repeatedly had to ask people to remove objects (prams, bikes) from the stairways and entrances so that there was access in the case of an emergency.
Update 2008-12-29: Västerbottenskuriren has an informative graphic showing the spread of the fire. I must admit that it raises some questions about the structure of the houses on Ålidhem which seems to give several opportunities for fires to spread and be difficult to control. Given that the buildings were erected around 1970, they don’t look state-of-the-art which surprises me.