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3 Sep, 2008 01:50

Crumbling flats force Muscovites onto streets

Residents of a dilapidated Moscow apartment block have been forced to move into tents for their own safety. With temperatures already dipping sharply, they are pressing authorities to rehouse them before winter.

Most of the twenty residents of the crumbling building have found accommodation with friends or relatives, but some haven't been so lucky.

Valentina Zotova, 58, who suffers from asthma, has already been camping in her front yard for two weeks. In Moscow the temperature has plunged in the past week, dropping as low as 3 degrees Celsius one night.

“It's very hard for me to stay here. Here, we have people suffering from asthma and other diseases. Naturally, I feel cold at night here. But in my view it’s the only choice. This block is a threat to our lives,” said Valentina.

It took six years of complaints to authorities before the building was finally checked – and immediately declared unsafe to live in.

An independent report also found problems with the electricity and the water supply. On top of everything else, this caused a pungent smell inside the building.

“The air in the building is terrible,” said another resident, Nadezhda Vedishcheva. “Also, the walls and ceilings are falling apart. They say by the end of this year, they'll give us new apartments. But I don't believe them.”

The Emergency Ministry says it is working to arrange replacement accommodation, but residents are doubtful it will deliver on its promise before temperatures drop below freezing.