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9 Mar, 2010 03:25

Nightclub in ashes in Moscow

One person has died and another is missing after a fire broke out overnight in “Opera”, one of Moscow's most famous nightclubs in the center of the capital. The three-storey building was completely gutted by the blaze.

The club was closed at the time of the fire due to the construction works, with only three members of staff on the premises.

The fire was given the second degree of severity on a five-degree scale. It spread on a territory of around 1,200 square meters and 35 fire brigades battled the blaze.

It is reported that the fire melted window panes in the building located as close as 20 meters.

About 250 people from the hostel nearby were moved to safety. They have already returned to their dormitories.

According to officials, a breach of the fire safety rules during construction works is thought to be the cause.

Opera nightclub opened in 2006, its primary audience having been show business personalities, business elite and fashion representatives.

Both Russian fire safety watchdog, Gospozharnadzor, and Moscow’s prosecutors have had repeated concerns about breaches of fire safety rules there.

According to Komsomolskaya Pravda daily, in April 2009, the club was ordered to suspend operations for 30 days. The same was done in December 2009. Reportedly, the club has never stopped operating, regardless of the orders.

After an unscheduled inspection in February 2010, the club’s owner was fined for not rectifying the violations completely.

“The administration of the nightclub has indeed remedied most of the violations,” Moscow’s emergencies service head Evgeny Bobylyov told Ria Novosti news agency. “A fire alarm was installed and fire warning systems, but the automatic fire extinguishing system was not installed.”

The incident comes after nationwide safety checks following a nightclub fire in the city of Perm in Central Russia four months ago that claimed the lives of 155 people.