Russian TV knocked out as fire rages through 1,800ft tower

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The Independent Online

Fire spread yesterday through the 1,771ft Ostankino television tower in Moscow, knocking out most TV channels and sending a plume of smoke over the city.

Fire spread yesterday through the 1,771ft Ostankino television tower in Moscow, knocking out most TV channels and sending a plume of smoke over the city.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known but initial reports said it apparently was started by a short-circuit in equipment belonging to a paging company. The futuristic tower, the tallest free-standing structure in Europe, is a popular tourist attraction, with an observation deck and restaurant two-thirds up its height. The fire started well above that level and officials said all visitors were evacuated. But five hours after the fire broke out at 3.30pm (11.30 GMT), the fire had spread to the platform as well as further up the spire.

The fire started 1,520ft above ground and firemen had problems fighting the blaze because of the difficulty of hauling equipment, including chemical fire extinguishers, to that height. The tower's spire is narrow at that point and the cramped quarters hampered movement.

Scores of fire engines and ambulances were parked at the bottom of the tower, which was lit by at least three searchlights, as officials tried to figure out a way to fight the blaze.

Yellow flames licked from the glassed-in platform as darkness fell on the city. Thousands of people thronged to the base of the tower, gathering in a carnival atmosphere - drinking beer, laughing and a few dancing to music from radios.

A huge helicopter capable of dropping water from a giant bag was brought to the scene but was not deployed.

The tower contains circuitry for law-enforcement agencies and emergency services, news reports said, but the extent of the damage was not immediately known. ( AP)

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