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3 Apr, 2013 14:56

Luxury skyscraper hotel destroyed in massive blaze in Chechnya (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

The blaze that had engulfed the tallest skyscraper in the North Caucasus region of Russia, has been put out, leaving the building almost completely destroyed.

According to information given by local emergency services, the fire that had engulfed the 'Grozny City' skyscraper on Wednesday, was put out in the early hours of Thursday, at 1:30 AM. The blaze has left the 40-floor building in a state of near-complete destruction.

The local emergency service said the call about the fire on between the 4th and 5th floors was received at around 18:00 PM local time (14:00 GMT).

According to witnesses’ pictures that immediately started to appear on Twitter, all stories of the building had been covered in flames.

At the time there had been reports suggesting that the fire started on the top floor and the bottom floor was on fire as well.

All people had managed to leave the 145-meter skyscraper ; one woman was seen to be supported by others, witnesses said. Local police confirmed no one was injured.

Fire units and ambulances had arrived at the scene. Nearly 300 people were involved in extinguishing the fire. The area around the Grozny-City complex has been cordoned off.

In two hours the fire had completely engulfed three sides of the skyscraper from top to bottom, as the flames spread rapidly due to the plastic trimming on the building. It had also reached the world's largest clock face, located near the apex of the building.

Firefighters had managed to extinguish the flames on the lower floors. However, the fire spread very quickly, making it difficult to tackle the blaze from the ground. Helicopters have been sent from the southern city of Pyatigorsk to help out, but have not received the go-ahead for lift-off.

"We are ready, but the helicopters won't be able to maneuver between the buildings, which are packed tight," said emergency ministry official Aleksandr Barsuk.

A criminal case has been launched in connection to the violation of fire safety rules. According to the initial version the cause of the fire was a short circuit, LifeNews tabloid reported citing a local police source.

“According to preliminary information, the cause of the fire in the skyscraper was a short circuit. A more concise report will be done after experts examine the building,” the source told the tabloid.

In the burning skyscrapers, known collectively as 'Olympus', is an apartment belonging to French film star and tax exile Gerard Depardieu. LifeNews tabloid reports local administration confirmed the Frenchman’s apartment is on the 27th floor, facing the so-called 'heart of Grozny'- central mosque.

“The fire has completely enveloped the right-hand side of the skyscraper. Both the wall and the window of the actor’s apartment have been damaged,” the tabloid quoted a local police source as saying.

Photo from twitter.com user @katyareznikova / @AsyaBelova

The head of Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov granted the actor the status of 'Chechen’s honorable resident' and presented an apartment in Grozny-City shortly after the Frenchman was granted Russian citizenship.

The Grozny-City complex was partly open in 2011.  It consists of seven skyscrapers both condominiums and a hotel: one 40-storey (currently on fire), one 30-storey, three 28-storey and two 18-storey buildings. The completed complex would boast 1000 apartments.

"We will reconstruct the building, and make it more beautiful with help from Allah," said Kadyrov on his Instagram account.

RIA Novosti / Said Tzarnaev

RIA Novosti / Said Tzarnaev

RIA Novosti / Said Tzarnaev

RIA Novosti / Said Tzarnaev

Photo from twitter.com user @magello05