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The BBC's Steve Rosenberg reports from Moscow
"The price tag for rebuilding the tower will be enormous"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 30 August, 2000, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Moscow's TV tower saved
Woman tunes TV
Some Muscovites are installing satellite TV
The Russian authorities say the fire-ravaged Ostankino television tower in Moscow is stable enough to be restored.

A safety cordon around the tower has been lifted, allowing traffic to return to nearby streets.


The announcement by the Emergency Situations Minister, Sergei Shoigu, followed a detailed inspection by engineers.

The intensity of the fire had led to fears that part of the giant structure might collapse, or have to be dismantled.

However, the cost of restoring the tower could be beyond the government's means.

It is estimated that the fire caused $1bn of damage, and according to the newspaper Segodnya, this is more than the government's annual budget for dealing with the aftermath of emergency situations.

The newspaper says the budget is about $96m - most of which has already been spent.

Transmitter

The blaze blacked out television transmissions in the Moscow region, but Russian officials say some broadcasts from the world's second tallest building could resume on Wednesday.

A temporary transmitter is being set up on the tower at a height of 147 metres and should begin transmissions of state channel RTR by Wednesday evening.

However it is thought it could be weeks before a full TV service is restored.

Fireman checks tower damage
Experts have concluded the tower is stable

The blaze in the 540-metre (1,770-foot) tower was finally extinguished at about 1740 local time (1340 GMT) on Monday.

Firefighters recovered the bodies of four people from the bottom of a lift shaft in the charred building. They included a senior firefighter and a 24-year-old woman who had got married just a few days earlier.

The structure, rising to twice the height of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, is listing slightly after the blaze.

The head of the State Committee on Construction, Anvar Shamuzafarov, said on Tuesday that about 25% of the 149 steel cables that bind together the sections of the tower had been damaged.

But he and Minister Shoigu said that experts had concluded the structure was stable.

Firefighters said the top third of the tower had been completely gutted.

Overhauling the economy

The BBC's Rob Parsons in Moscow says President Vladimir Putin may use this latest disaster to force the pace of change in Russia.


Mr Putin blamed the fire on the poor state of Russia's infrastructure following years of economic decline and neglect.

Coming so soon after the Kursk submarine tragedy, the blaze has fuelled a general feeling in Russia that urgent measures are needed to turn the economy round, our correspondent says.

An Interior Ministry report showed the tower, once the pride of Soviet-era architects, did not meet current fire prevention standards.

The recent boom in communications meant that there was far more equipment in the tower than had been planned for when it was built.

The fire, which started high up in the tower, has been blamed on an electrical short circuit.

The theory that it was an act of sabotage has been widely dismissed - not least because the fire started so high up.

Chechen separatists have claimed responsibility for the fire, but they also claimed to have sunk the Kursk.

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See also:

28 Aug 00 | Europe
In pictures: TV tower fire
28 Aug 00 | Europe
Blank screen gloom for Muscovites
29 Aug 00 | Media reports
Russian press rakes over Soviet embers
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