Terrorism has all-but been ruled out as the cause of a huge fire in a gas pipe in Moscow. Flames more than 100 metres high lit up the night sky above the Russian capital, after a natural gas line to a petrol station exploded. The blast was heard across the city. The resulting blaze sparked smaller fires in buildings nearby. A few hours later the gas supply was turned off, but it was thought the flames could burn on for some time.
“We have to wait for the official investigation, but I am 99 percent sure this catastrophe was caused by a technical problem,” said Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
The fire is Moscow’s worst for at least 20 years. There are conflicting reports of injuries: some said five people were hurt, but there has been no confirmation from city authorities. Nearby homes were evacuated as firefighters tried to stop the blaze spreading. Phone lines in the area were cut as underground cables melted.
Similar fires have been seen recently in other parts of the former Soviet Union. They are usually blamed on technical problems in ageing equipment which has suffered years of under-investment.