A fire in a Moscow metro tunnel led authorities to evacuate about 4,500 people from stations by the Kremlin, snarling traffic in the center of the Russian capital, according to the Emergencies Ministry.
The power-cable fire at 8:20 a.m. local time sent billows of smoke into the Okhotny Ryad and Lenin Library metro stations. At least 47 people sought medical help and seven were hospitalized, according the Emergencies Ministry.
Europe’s busiest metro, opened by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1935, now carries more than 8 million people a day on average now through 188 stations, according to the Moscow Metropolitan’s website. Moscow is planning $55 billion of investment in roads, metro lines and infrastructure to boost use of public transportation by 45% and ease traffic, Sergey Cheremin, Moscow government minister for external economic and international relations, said in February.
“We’re on our way, we’ve been on our way for three hours already,” Ekaterina Goryacheva, 24, a logistics specialist, said at the exit of the Oktyabrskaya metro stop, located on a different line from where the fire occurred. “Nothing’s working, there’s no information, nothing.”
Last year Moscow announced a plan to sell shares of its subway system, one of the world’s busiest, to attract capital for development through 2025.
Crowds formed at bus stops, and buses were so full that people couldn’t get on. Thirty buses and six trolleybuses were added to regular routes, the Moscow government’s transport department said on its website. Psychologists and rescue workers were assisting passengers, the Emergencies Ministry said.
Transportation was suspended along the Sokolnicheskaya metro line from Park Kultury to Komsomolskaya, which serves three of the city’s biggest train stations. Service resumed after 12 p.m. It was halted again within 40 minutes after smoke was detected again, RIA Novosti reported.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a former chief of staff to President Vladimir Putin, made easing transportation and uprooting corruption his focus after taking over in 2010 from Yury Luzhkov, who had governed the city of 11.5 million for 18 years.
Sobyanin said yesterday he is seeking to hold the city’s first direct election in a decade, two years before his term ends, to capitalize on his popularity in a bid for a new five-year term.
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