Russia detains two after huge Saint Petersburg fire

Saint Petersburg (AFP) –

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Russia on Tuesday detained two people after a huge fire gutted a historic factory in Saint Petersburg, as firefighters continued putting out the blaze.

On Monday, a fire broke out over several floors of the red-brick Nevskaya Manufaktura building in Russia's second city. The inferno killed one firefighter and left two more hospitalised with serious burns.

The fire continued burning into Tuesday over an area of 500 square metres (5,400 square feet), the emergencies ministry said, adding that nearly 40 firefighters were involved in extinguishing the blaze and clearing the debris.

The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said that it launched a criminal probe into a death caused by negligence and added that law enforcement had detained the general director of Nevskaya Manufaktura and his deputy.

Investigators cited a "number of violations" regarding fire safety and said that management "knew for a fact" that the premises could not be operated.

They estimated the total area of the blaze at some 4,000 square metres, causing a large part of the roof to collapse and even spreading to nearby trees.

Listed by the Saint Petersburg city government as a cultural heritage site, the building was home to one of Russia's largest textile companies in the 19th century.

Fires are relatively common in Russia due to dilapidated infrastructure or non-compliance with safety standards.