March 19, 2006

Concrete pillar hits Moscow metro train, none hurt

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Workmen digging a hole above a Moscow
underground train line drove a concrete pillar into the roof of
a moving train, Russian officials said on Sunday.

No one on the train was hurt. A fire broke out after the
impact but all passengers were evacuated, said Emergencies
Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov.

Prosecutors said they had begun a criminal investigation
into suspected violations of the building safety code, the
Interfax news agency reported.

"Preliminary information is that some company was putting
up an advertising billboard above the underground line and they
did not have the necessary permission," Interfax quoted an
unidentified official from the prosecutor's office as saying.

"(The train driver) saw a concrete pillar coming through
the tunnel roof, and he started emergency braking."

"It was not possible to avoid a crash. The pillar hit the
right hand side of the first carriage and then basically lodged
itself in the roof of the third carriage," Interfax quoted the
official as saying.

The accident took place on the Zamoskvoretskaya line, about
six km (four miles) north of Moscow's city center. The train
was heading south between the Voikovskaya and Sokol stations,
officials said.

Train services on the line were suspended. Services were
expected to be back to normal by Monday morning, network
managers said.

Moscow's underground system is used heavily. There are
fewer passengers at weekends but there are still usually at
least a dozen people in each carriage.

Moscow is in the grip of a building boom but safety
standards can be shoddy.

Construction companies often cut corners while some
regulatory officials are corrupt and turn a blind eye to safety
violations, opposition politicians say.