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2 Apr, 2012 17:25

250m skyscraper in flames: Europe's tallest-to-be tower burns in Moscow (VIDEO)

A massive fire that engulfed Moscow’s Federation Tower for hours has been put out. Firefighters struggled to tackle the flames in a 300-square meter area of the under-construction skyscraper set to become Europe's tallest upon completion.

The fire broke on the building's 67th floor (250 meters above the ground) and spread to several sections on the 66th and 65th floors.Fourteen people working on the floors hit by the blaze were evacuated. Authorities have expanded a cordoned-off area surrounding the building due to fears the burning floors could collapse. Fortunately, there were no reports of deaths or injuries in the incident.The top floor was nearly completely ablaze, with the fire smoothing out and then bursting again. The wind in lower floors facilitated the fire’s expansion. The huge image boards on the skyscraper’s walls were ignited and threatened neighboring buildings.The blaze could be seen from as far as ten kilometers away. Witnesses say it resembles a "fiery crown on top of the building.” Alarmed by the fire’s extent, Russia’s Emergencies Ministry sent two KA-226 helicopters to the scene. Twenty brigades of firemen are using hoses – before, they were using fire extinguishers. The blaze, which is reported to have started as trash and canvas catching fire, was ranked four out of five grades in terms of difficulty.The fire’s source may have been a fan used for heating asphalt bitumen that was left unwatched, an anonymous source told Interfax. The building will consist of two three-sided towers called “East” (243 meters high) and “West” (360 meters). The "East" part is the one that caught fire.Although the building is still under construction, some offices located in the first ten floors are already in use. There are also functioning offices on the 29th floor. There are reports that many of the affected floors were intended to house luxury apartments. The West tower already houses high-class offices and apartments, restaurants and the five-star Grand Hyatt Moscow Hotel.The East tower has been insured for $300 million, though there have not yet been any estimates as to how much the repairs will cost. In April 2011, a construction watchdog ordered the suspension of work on the tower and revoked the contractor's license, after a number of technical and fire safety violations were detected. The contractor, Mirax Group owned by businessman Sergey Polonsky, claimed that the Moscow authorities are inventing a pretext to take over the company’s projects. Without a license, Mirax will not be able to obtain a bank loan and the construction process will be frozen. The problem was later solved.