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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Leningradsky Crater Swallows Truck

MTRepair workers sifting through bits of pavement left from the section of a Leningradsky Prospekt access road that collapsed late Sunday. No one was injured.
City officials are blaming construction work for the collapse of a huge swath of a Leningradsky Prospekt access road late Sunday, leaving a crater that swallowed up a parked truck and stalled Monday morning traffic heading to the city center.

The KamAZ truck was empty when the road caved in, and no one was injured.

Next to the crater was the construction site of a large, unfinished complex.

The construction site belongs to German electronics giant Siemens, which has hired Russian developer Sistema Gals to build a 23-story office tower that will be known as the Siemens Moscow House, according to the company's web site.

Calls to the developer's office Monday went unanswered.

"The building company that was working in the vicinity of the accident made a miscalculation during the complicated process of building the foundation," said Sergei Tsoi, press secretary for Mayor Yury Luzhkov, Interfax reported.

Water had seeped through the foundation of the construction site and washed away the earth under the access road, which runs parallel to Leningradsky Prospekt, Tsoi said.

Tsoi said the city was considering tough penalties for the construction company, including the withdrawal of its license. He did not name Sistema Gals.

Vadim Mikhailov, president of Diggers-Rescue, a nongovernmental organization that works with the Emergency Situations Ministry, said he was not surprised by the collapsed roadway.

City officials, he said, "blame the construction company, but everyone is to blame."

Mikhailov said a lack of communication between the city and construction companies led many builders to begin work without the necessary infrastructure in place.

"This is happening everywhere in Moscow," he said. "The Arbat is sinking. The Garden Ring is sinking. It is only a matter of time before another accident happens."

About 200 tons of sand were brought to the site, between the Dynamo and Aeroport metro stations, to shore up the unstable perimeter and fill the crater, which stretched 50 meters long and 15 meters wide and sank 10 meters deep.

The building that houses the Gorbachev Foundation stands meters from the edge of the crater but was undamaged.

Workers without any harnessing equipment descended halfway down the chasm to hack away with pneumatic drills at lingering sections of tarmac. Reporters and construction workers had to dodge rotating trucks dumping clumps of sand into the hole.

The access road remained closed Monday and was expected to reopen within a week, traffic police at the scene said. Traffic heading in both directions on Leningradsky Prospekt had already been squeezed into two lanes due to construction work widening the road.

"If the weather stays clear, this mess should be cleared up soon," said an Emergency Situations Ministry official who declined to give his name.

The official said the water supply to the area had been turned off the previous evening. "We've seen much worse," he said. "This is just small change."

Denis Gorbachev, the head of Mosvodokanal, the state firm that supplies water to the city, voiced confidence that repair work on the crater would be finished soon.

"These kinds of problems don't scare us," said Gorbachev, who is not related to the former Soviet leader. "We know what needs to be done and we are in the process of doing it."

As Gorbachev was speaking with a reporter in a high-tech bus serving as the firm's operations center, a repair worker came on board to announce that water had begun gushing into the hole. The water rose to a level of three meters before the source could be plugged.

Road collapses are relatively frequent in Moscow. In 1983, the historic Pashkov House almost sank during the construction of a metro station nearby. In 1995, a section of the Garden Ring sank five meters as a result of a burst water pipe.

And in 1998, a car and the facade of a two-story building sank into a 500-square-meter hole near the mayor's office in the city center in a collapse blamed on a water leak. That prompted the city to review licenses and procedures of companies carrying out repairs on roads and underground pipes.