Fire Guts Trendy City Hot Spot

MTA helicopter water-bomber fighting the blaze Thursday at Diaghilev Project.
A fire tore through the ultra-trendy nightclub Diaghilev Project on Thursday, gutting one of the city's most exclusive -- and expensive -- hangouts.

No one was killed in the blaze, but firefighters rescued five people from the four-story brick building that houses the club, two of whom were hospitalized with burns, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Firefighters were called to the scene shortly before noon Thursday, and 15 fire trucks and a helicopter were deployed to douse the flames, which engulfed an area of 1,500 square meters, the ministry said in a statement.

The blaze sent columns of smoke into the city skies, where a helicopter periodically swooped down and released five ton loads of water onto the inferno.

It took firefighters around one hour to extinguish the fire at the club, which is located in the Hermitage Gardens, near the Pushkinskaya metro station in central Moscow.

Bystander Mikhail Vorobyov, who works across the street from the Hermitage Gardens on Ulitsa Petrovka, said he saw fire and smoke coming from the building's roof shortly after 11 a.m.

"There was a burning smell, and when I looked out of the window I saw that Diaghilev's roof was on fire," Vorobyov said, adding that he heard what sounded like several loud smacking sounds as the fire raged.

A police officer at the scene said those were the sounds of the roof collapsing.

"It's an old building with wooden beams," said the police officer, who declined to give his name.

Known for its brutally strict face control and tables for $1,000 a pop, Diaghilev Project is one of the most popular clubs for the city's rich and beautiful.

Natalya, a middle-aged onlooker who refused to give her last name, was quick to blame the moneyed youth that parties at the club.

"They have everything they want, but they want to experience a real thrill," Natalya said. "They must have lit too many fireworks to celebrate the Chinese New Year."

Preliminary investigations indicate a short circuit sparked the blaze, emergency officials said.

The Chinese Embassy had in fact planned to rent the club Thursday evening to celebrate the Chinese New Year, RIA-Novosti reported.

It was unclear if and when the club would reopen, or whether it would be relocated.

Reached by telephone, Arkady, a manager of the club who refused to give his last name, declined to comment.