Storage and information management firm Iron Mountain has lost one of its main data centers today, according to the Associated Press. Although it’s unclear how the fire started, it spread quickly and took hours to control. Nine first-responders were killed during the blaze, while two are missing, and seven others are reported injured. By the time the fire was put out, the building “appeared to be ruined” according to news reports.
The data center was located in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. Among the data stored there were several archives containing corporate and central bank records, a potentially huge loss that could have some surprisingly far reaching consequences. Just last month, for instance, the United States Supreme Court decided to hear a case on whether creditors could seek historic bank records from Argentina regarding the country’s default in 2001. Whether or not such files have now been destroyed is unknown.
Such disasters are one of the things data storage companies like Iron Mountain try their hardest to prevent. The Buenos Aires facility even had a team of private firefighters at the facility. That’s in addition to the sprinkler systems, and automatic containment mechanisms designed to stop fires from spreading through the building. All of those precautions, however, were apparently not enough.
We will investigate the cause of the fire and work closely with local investigators, police and fire authorities to understand what happened. The building was equipped with both fire-detection as well as a sprinkler system.
They also note that they are in the process of contacting customers who may have permanently lost data. Argentina’s Security Secretary Sergio Berni was quoted by the Washington Post as saying that “all of this will end up in court,” although it’s unclear exactly which parties and circumstances he was referring to.
Update 2/6/14: According to local reports, it appears that the storage facility this occurred at was primarily used to store physical, paper records, not digital data. Iron Mountain has yet to release any further statements on the issue, so it’s unclear if there are any digital copies of these records. There is no mention of backup copies however in either Iron Mountain’s original press release, or in any of the statement’s from Argentine officials.