Moscow gas pipeline catches fire

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

A fire broke out in southeast Moscow stemming from a gas pipeline. According to local officials, flames reached up to 200 meters (600 feet) above the city.

According to the mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, at least five people were injured by the fire, one of them suffering 35 percent burns on his body. There are no reports of deaths. The mayor added that the probable cause of the fire is "an upsurge of pressure in the pipeline, as a result of which an explosion took place underground." Deputy mayor Pyotr Birukov says he doesn't remember a fire of such proportions happening in Moscow.

The fire broke out at 00:30 local time (20:30 on Saturday, GMT), sending flames into the sky. By the morning the fire was brought under control, reducing the flames to 20 meters (60 feet) of height. The Russian Ministry of Emergencies reported the fire being ranked as Category 5, the most serious category on the ministry's incident assessment scale. 35 fire brigade units were dispatched to fight the blaze. The fire is believed to have been caused by "technical" problems, according to Agence France-Presse as reported by

"All of our efforts are directed towards reducing the temperature around the centre of the fire", said the deputy emergency situations minister Alexander Chupriyan. He also predicted that the fire will be put out by midday. Deputy mayor Birukov added that the city's energy system won't be affected by the fire. However, municipal telecommunications company reported that 80,000 people lost their phone connections, as the fire burnt nearby underground cables.

The transportation authorities closed the traffic in the area near the fire, including the Michurinsky Avenue, an important arterial street connecting the outskirts with the Moscow River in the city center. About 25 parked cars with no occupants inside were damaged by the fire, while dozens of residents appeared to record the blaze with camcorders.

The fire did not threaten the nearby apartment blocks. The building nearest to the fire is an administrative building 200 meters away and the nearest residential building is a 19-story apartment block 500 meters (1600 feet) away.

Fires like this one are becoming increasingly frequent in the area of the former Soviet Union due to the aging structure of transporting energents, which has not been refit in decades. Officials are saying that the preparations for the Eurovision Song Contest finals due next weekend won't be affected.