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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Blaze Guts Transport Ministry




Fire gutted a formidable part of a building that houses Transportation Ministry offices on the embankment across from the Kremlin, but no one was hurt.


It took more than 100 firefighting crews nearly five hours to put out the blaze, which fire officials said they believed was caused by a short circuit.


The fire Monday night destroyed 2,000 of the five-story building's 5,000 square meters, mostly on the top two floors of the left wing. At least one car parked outside the building was damaged by falling debris.


The building, located at 34 Sofiiskaya Naberezhnaya, is run by the Transportation Ministry's department that handles its offices and housing. The ministry also rents space to more than 30 private companies.


Employees of private companies and ministry officials were piling up their water-soaked file folders and charred computers outside the building Tuesday morning as firefighters continued to pour water on smoking debris on the upper floors.


"I don't even know even where we all will go now," said Larisa, an employee of a firm that had its offices in the building.


She came to work at 10 a.m. to find her office charred by fire and soaked with water. She spent most of the morning trying to salvage remnants of the office's documents, furniture and equipment.


A firefighter with the city's first unit said it was a "miracle" the fire didn't destroy the entire building, the first two floors of which were constructed in 1884.


The firefighter, who would give only his first name, Alexei, said the joint efforts of firefighters with 102 firefighting vehicles helped to avert the total destruction of the building and prevent the fire from spreading to nearby buildings.


Flames had been creeping through the building for 15 minutes or more when night guards noticed smoke pouring out of corridors Monday evening.


The guards alerted firefighters just before 8:30 p.m. and the first crews arrived about five minutes later. Firefighters didn't bring the fire under control until 12:44 a.m. and extinguished it only at 1:28 a.m. Tuesday.


Officials at the city fire service's headquarters said they believed it was a short circuit that started the fire, which spread rapidly from the third floor to the fourth and fifth floors, easily engulfing the building's wooden ceilings and inner walls.