The sounds of explosions were thunderous and flames and smoke rose over the Moscow River this past Wednesday when an underwater oil pipeline exploded in the Maryino district of Russia’s capital. At least three people, including a child, were injured and amateur footage of the blaze showed large plumes of black smoke rising over the water.
Investigators at first thought that the sudden rupture of an underwater oil pipeline caused the blast, but later reports indicated that a slow and previously undetected leak may have been accidentally ignited by workers who were burning brush along the riverbank. The fireball erupted about 200 meters upstream from a Moscow oil refinery site.
The fire and plume of smoke could be seen as far away as Red Square, about 1600 meters (a mile) from the explosion site. Residents of nearby apartments and office workers watched from highrise windows as fire crews battled the blaze for over an hour.
On Monday local residents had begun to complain of unusual smells coming from the refinery and the river. Inspectors suspected a leak but could not pinpoint it at the time. A cloud of hydrogen sulfide gas had enveloped parts of Moscow in November of last year and investigators had concluded then that the gases were coming from the same Moscow refinery.
Officials with Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry advised residents to say indoors as a protection against respiratory issues caused by the smoke. Russia Beyond The Headlines is reporting that environment damage is estimated at almost 30 million rubles ($464,000).