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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Blaze Blackens Elite Office Building

MTFirefighters extinguishing a blaze at the Ducat Place III office building near the Mayakovskaya metro station Friday.
A fire broke out Friday afternoon at the Ducat Place III office building in central Moscow, prompting the evacuation of about 150 employees of multinational companies. No one was hurt in the blaze.

The fire damaged several upper floors of the 15-story building near Mayakovskaya metro station and appeared to have been sparked by a short circuit on an advertisement hanging on the building.

"We were very scared," said one woman who works at the building's main reception. "When we came out of the building, hot chunks of melted plastic were falling from above."

As she spoke, a woman with a walkie-talkie approached and told her and other evacuated employees that they should not talk to reporters.

The fire broke out on the eighth floor of the building at around 2 p.m. and quickly spread to the roof, fire chief Anatoly Bushin said at the scene.

Companies with offices in the building include Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Fitch and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Around 150 people were evacuated from the building via emergency stairs, said Yevgeny Bobulyov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry's Moscow branch. Many of those standing on the street had left their coats, wallets and mobile phones behind.

Some people did not believe that there actually was a fire, said Margarita Mesonzhnik, a banker who works for the EBRD, located on the second floor.

The building's fire alarm system had mistakenly been activated many times in the past, so announcers on the building's public address system had to convince employees that Friday's blaze was not a false alarm, Mesonzhnik said.

Natalya Myshko, a PR manager for Citigroup, located on the third and fourth floors, said she was out for a lunch break with colleagues when the fire started. "When we came back, we saw that there was fire on the top of the building and people were on their way out of it," Myshko said.

A giant air cushion to catch people who needed to jump from higher floors was on standby, and a rescue helicopter was also deployed, but neither was used.

Authorities cordoned off Ulitsa Gasheka, paralyzing traffic along nearby Tverskaya Ulitsa and the Garden Ring.

Authorities have opened an investigation. Bushin said a short circuit in an external advertising board was probably to blame for the fire.

The building remained closed late Friday, and it was not clear when it would be open again. Officials from Hines, the company that manages the building, could not be reached for comment.