Russian authorities evacuated about 3,000 people and deployed firefighting helicopters to battle the large blaze in Moscow's Sindika shopping center. The fire caused several parked cars to explode.
The blaze sent a thick plume of smoke over the Russian capital on Sunday, causing traffic jams on the nearby section of Moscow's ring road. The fire reportedly started in the basement of the Sindika mall on the northwest edge of Moscow and soon ripped through the entire shopping center which specializes in construction goods. Almost the entire roof of the building caved in.
Authorities deployed 20 tanker trucks and three firefighting helicopters to the scene, dumping over 450 tons of water on the fire.
"There are almost 300 people working at the site, aircraft have also been deployed," said head of Moscow emergency management Sergey Poletkin. "The team is growing."
Russian Minister of Emergency Situations, Vladimir Puchkov, said that Moscow drivers should be informed "using all modern technologies" about traffic troubles caused by the fire.
Injured through smoke inhalation
Over 3,000 shoppers and employees were evacuated from the site.
Officials said that only three people have been injured so far, with all three of them showing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. However, local hospitals reported they were bracing for more injured.
Some Russian media urged the citizens to close their windows and stay off the streets to avoid toxic fumes. However, experts believe that the level of fumes remained within acceptable levels "at this time," according to the Russian Interfax news agency.
Read more: Two blazes in Moscow, 17 killed
Sindika contains about 1,200 smaller stores and its parking lot has about 5,200 parking spaces. Local officials reported that several cars parked at the lot exploded after being caught by the fire.
Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations believes it will take another several hours to put the fire under control.
dj/jm (Reuters, dpa, Interfax)