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Library fire destroys massive historic documents in ‘cultural Chernobyl’ in Russia

Library fire destroys massive historic documents in ‘cultural Chernobyl’ in Russia

Posted February. 02, 2015 09:07,   


A fire broke out at the biggest library in Russia, and reduced to ashes about 1 million books and ancient documents hundreds of years old. Reuters said a fire started on the third floor at the library of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION) in southern Moscow at 10 p.m. on Friday, and ravaged 2,000 sq. meters. The roof measuring 1,000 sq. meters wide also collapsed.

Built in 1918, the library stores the largest volume of books in Russia, including documents on law introduced from Britain, Italy and the U.S., dating back to the 1700s. The number of books and rare documents kept in the library amounts to 14.2 million, including books more than 400 years old from Europe and rare documents written in Slavic languages in the Middle Ages.

A total of 38 fire engines and 147 firefighters were deployed, but it took 25 hours to put out the blaze. In the process, about 1 million books and documents were reportedly burned down or damaged due to water sprayed to extinguish the fire. The cause of the fire has yet to be identified, but the state-run RIA Novosti news agency quoted an informed official as saying, “Electric short was the cause.”

Vladimir Fortov, the director of the institute, said, “One can find documents there that are impossible to find elsewhere. What has happened here is reminiscent of Chernobyl,” labeling it “cultural Chernobyl.” The radioactive leaks in 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine, left more than 7,000 people dead, and 430,000 still suffering from aftereffects of radioactive contamination.