Firefighters struggle against blaze in Moscow television tower

Firefighters struggled for a second day Monday to extinguish a fire that gutted Moscow's giant television tower, as officials said there was little chance that people trapped in an lift could be saved.

Firefighters struggled for a second day Monday to extinguish a fire that gutted Moscow's giant television tower, as officials said there was little chance that people trapped in an lift could be saved.

Brown plumes of smoke billowed from the 540-meter (1,771-foot) Ostankino Tower on Monday morning, spreading out across northern Moscow as people watched from the streets below. But the smoke disappeared by mid-afternoon and Vyacheslav Mulishkin, first deputy director of the Russian Fire Service, said that firefighters had gotten the blaze under control.

He said that temporary firewalls of asbestos placed 70 meters (231 feet) up the tower had stopped the fire from spreading. But he said bundles of steel support cables running up the middle of the tower had been damaged, possibly threatening the structure.

"The cables are weakened, but have not broken," he said.

Automatic firefighting systems within the tower appeared to have failed or had run out of fire-suppressing foam, officials said. Firefighters wearing heavy rubber coats and breathing apparatuses had to climb hundreds of stairs, carrying heavy metal fire extinguishers and other equipment to battle the blaze.

Mulishkin said two civilians and a firefighter were trapped in a lift high in the tower. Earlier Monday, the Emergency Situations Ministry said that there were four trapped people in the lift, while Russian news agencies said there were only two.

The lift was too high for rescuers to reach, and the people inside may have been overcome by smoke.

The fire, which broke out high on the tower's upper spire Sunday afternoon, cut broadcasts for most major television stations in Moscow, though channels were still able to transmit nationally. The tower is the world's second-tallest freestanding structure.

More than 300 firefighters and other emergency workers were called in to battle the blaze, along with fire trucks and other equipment. A helicopter circled close to the tower, apparently checking for damage.

It was the latest in a series of disasters, including gas explosions, industrial accidents and breakdowns in the power grid, which have underscored the weakened state of Russia's infrastructure due to lack of money and poor maintenance.

"This emergency highlights what condition vital facilities, as well as the entire nation, are in," President Vladimir Putin said at a Cabinet meeting. "Only economic development will allow us to avoid such calamities in the future."

Responding to fears that the tower could collapse, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said "a large danger arises from the physical condition of the concrete parts of the tower." But he said earlier that the risk of collapse "practically does not exist."

A Moscow city surveyor on the scene, Vladimir Aleksin, said the tower's upper spire had tilted slightly, and that the tip of the structure was off-center by about two meters.

The fire started after a short-circuit in wiring belonging to a paging company. Visitors were quickly evacuated from the tower's restaurant and observation deck, which were engulfed several hours later as the fire moved down the structure.

Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said authorities considered it unlikely that the fire was set intentionally in the tower, which has become increasingly packed with equipment in recent years.

Prosecutors opened an investigation Monday into whether criminal negligence was responsible for the fire, the Interfax news agency reported.

Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said it would take two or three days to restore television broadcasts to Moscow, while months would be needed to renovate the tower completely, Radio Mayak reported Monday.

Law enforcement agencies and emergency services also have circuitry in the tower, news reports said, but it wasn't clear whether that equipment was damaged.

The Ostankino tower was erected in 1967, and like many projects of the time, played its own small role in the Soviet-U.S. rivalry. It surpassed the Empire State Building as the world's tallest structure when it was built, and held the title until 1975 when it was surpassed by the CN tower in Toronto.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments