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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Burst Pipes Don't Stop Famed Animal Theater

MTMikhailov, head of the Moscow Diggers, gesticulating at the threatened building.
Russia's most famous animal theater is facing partial destruction after a land slip over the weekend caused canalization pipes to burst under one of its buildings.

By Monday, cracks were running through the administrative building of the 88-year-old Vladimir Durov Animal Theater, which is home to dozens of trained animals.

"Urgent action must be taken now to prevent the building's collapse," said Vadim Mikhailov, the head of Moscow Diggers, a semi-official organization that explores Moscow's network of underground tunnels.

Cracks began to appear Friday in the building on Ulitsa Durova, near Prospekt Mira, after the ground started moving, Mikhailov said. Since then, the situation has deteriorated.

On Monday morning canalization pipes burst in two places in the building's basement, partially flooding it with water and mud and further worsening structural damage.

Central District officials pledged Monday that urgent work will be carried out to reinforce the damaged walls and basement.

Meanwhile, members of the staff and some of the animals that resided close to the disaster area were relocated to offices and cages in other parts of the theater complex.

A combination of long-term problems led to Monday's crisis, Mikhailov said. The theater stands on lowland, where at least two rivers have been diverted into pipes, and metro tunnels and ventilation wells are located close to the complex, he said.

"[The disaster] happened because of bad management -- pipes have not been changed in decades -- and the effect of constant vibration coming from the metro deep down and trams running around the theater on the surface," Mikhailov said.

Theater director Natalya Durova, granddaughter of the animal trainer and political satirist Vladimir Durov, who founded the theater in 1913, said she was ready to stay with the animals even if the building starts to collapse.

"I am not going to leave my animals," she said as she showed a group of reporters around her theater.

The theater does not plan to alter its busy performance schedule. Shows continued throughout the weekend and will go on, Durova said.

So far the parts of the complex where the stage and audience are located have not been affected.

If the damage spreads, the theater management has trucks and wagons ready to evacuate the animals.