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Bodies found as towering inferno ends.

Firemen yesterday put out the blaze at Moscow's giant television tower - after more than a day of battling against thick smoke and intense heat hundreds of yards above ground - and found the bodies of two people.

The fire that gutted the landmark 1,771-foot Ostankino tower took 26 hours to put out. The tower is the world's second-tallest freestanding structure.

The bodies of a high-ranking fireman and a lift operator were found in a liftshaft.

They were two of the three people believed to have been trapped in a lift that became stuck high up in the tower in the fire's early phase.

There was no immediate word on the other person.

The fire knocked out most television services in Europe's largest city and concern was growing that some parts of the tower could fall, particularly the upper sections of its thin spire.

Bundles of steel support cables running up the middle of the tower had been damaged, said fire department deputy director Mr Vyacheslav Mulishkin.

Automatic firefighting systems within the tower appear to have failed or had run out of fire-suppressing foam, officials said.

Firemen wearing heavy rubber coats and breathing apparatus had to climb hundreds of stairs, carrying heavy metal fire extinguishers and other equipment to fight the blaze.

More than 300 firemen and other emergency workers were called in, along with fire trucks and other equipment.

A helicopter circled close to the tower, apparently checking for damage.

It was the latest in a series of disasters, including gas explosions, industrial accidents and breakdowns in the power grid, which have underscored the weakened state of Russia's infrastructure due to lack of money and poor maintenance.

"This emergency highlights what condition vital facilities, as well as the entire nation, are in," President Vladimir Putin said. "Only economic development will allow us to avoid such calamities in the future."

A Moscow city surveyor on the scene, Mr Vladimir Aleksin, said the tower's upper spire had tilted slightly, and that the tip of the structure was off-centre by about six feet.

Prosecutors opened an investigation yesterday into whether criminal negligence was responsible for the fire.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 29, 2000
Words:354
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