Fire kills 1, injures 13 at power plant blaze near Moscow

Smoke rises from a fire at an electricity generating power station in Moscow region as a sculpture of "Worker and Kolkhoz Woman" is seen in the foreground, in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday. — Reuters

MOSCOW — A blaze raged for hours at a gas-fired power station outside Moscow Thursday, killing a worker overseeing a substation and damaging a nearby warehouse, office building and hostel, emergency services said.

As the fire sent a plume of smoke and flames 50 meters (165 feet) into the sky, a female employee was unable to escape in time, Russia's emergencies ministry said.

"While searching through debris at the fire scene, one fatality was discovered," the ministry said.

Fourteen people received medical treatment, one of whom was hospitalized.

The fire broke out on the grounds of Power Station No. 27, some 20 km (13 miles) from Moscow, around 11:00 am (0800 GMT) and took about five hours to put out.

The smoke and flames were visible from the capital and the emergencies ministry said the fire blazed over an area of 800 square meters (8,600 square feet) though the power station itself — including the cooling towers — not affected.

The emergency services sent helicopters to drop water and fire-fighting trains to tackle the blaze, with some 160 firefighters at the scene.

One witness, Sofiya Fesenko, who lives in a nearby town, told Russian television that hot water flowed from cold taps after the fire.

"We saw smoke covering half the sky," she said.

The fire subsided after authorities switched off the gas supply.

Investigators were working to pinpoint the cause.

Russia's Investigative Committee, which probes serious incidents, said it was checking whether the energy company violated safety rules, a charge punishable by three years in prison.

The energy ministry said a leak from a high-pressure gas pipe sparked the fire outside the power station.

"Apparently there was a leak from a gas pipe," regional emergency ministry official Sergei Poletykin told Interfax.

A small explosion was heard before the fire broke out, Russian news agencies reported.

The power station was built at the end of the Soviet era and opened in 1996. Its four reactors supply part of Moscow and the region around the capital city with electricity and centralized hot water and heating.

The energy ministry said electricity supplies to the public would not be affected and the fire did not damage generation equipment at the station.

Russia is economically dependent on its vast oil and gas reserves. — AFP