Deadly blaze hits Moscow market warehouse
- 3 April 2012
- From the section Europe
At least 17 people have been killed by a fire that swept through a market warehouse in southern Moscow.
The victims were migrant workers from former Soviet states, according to the city fire department.
The two-storey building was being used as living quarters for the market vendors, who had no direct access from their room to the street.
The fire at Kachalovsky market came hours after a blaze at a skyscraper in Moscow, in which no-one was hurt.
The market fire broke out at about 04:50 (00:50 GMT) and was extinguished some three hours later, RIA Novosti news agency said, citing officials.
Most of the dead were from the central Asian state of Tajikistan and the rest may have come from other countries in the region, state media said.
They were staying in a metal storage warehouse at a construction materials market which "was not meant for people to live in," Sergei Gorbunov of the fire department told RIA.
Emergency workers described cramped living conditions where people slept on hard cots stacked on top of each other, according to the Interfax news agency.
As the living quarters had no direct access to the street, emergency workers had to cut their way into the building.
One investigator suggested the fire could have been caused by an electric heater left on overnight, Itar-Tass news agency reported.
The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says large numbers of migrant workers are employed in Moscow, often without being issued official work permits.
Paid little, many have no choice but to live in uncomfortable, and often squalid conditions, our correspondent says.
On Monday night, Russian fire crews were called to another fire that had engulfed the top of a Moscow skyscraper which is still under construction.
Helicopters helped douse the flames which broke out more than 60 floors up on the Federation Tower complex.
Nikita Zhuravlev, from the development company Potok 8, said a broken light started the blaze, according to the Associated Press.
"At 20:00 a broken plastic banner hit the light projector. Construction work is going 24 hours a day and the building area is lit by the projectors. The banner hit the projector and that caused the fire," he said.
The structure is intended to be Europe's tallest building and is due to be completed next year.