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Fire ruins historical building of Prague Exhibition Grounds

Friday, October 17, 2008

The left wing of the Industrial Palace (Pr?myslový palác) – central building of the Prague Exhibition Grounds (Výstavišt?) in the capital city of Czech Republic was destroyed by fire yesterday night. The fire began at the roof and flames were visible from kilometers away. Two hundred firefighters fought the fire and got it under control in less than three hours. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

The left wing of the Art Nouveau building was destroyed, the roof and most of enclosure walls collapsed. The amount of damage can rise up to 1 billion Czech crowns (approx. 40 million euro). Although a student music festival was organized in close surroundings, none were injured.

Mayor of Prague Pavel Bém promised the city will rebuild the Palace, but refused to comment immediately on the view of the new or renewed building.

The Industrial Palace was inaugurated in 1891. It was the biggest building on the exhibition grounds. Architect Bed?ich Münzberger used the glassed-in steel structures for the first time in the Czech lands. The building was 238 meters long and its main tower was 51 meters tall. It was used mainly for trade fairs and exhibitions, but also for concerts and other culture events.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, and could take a week to discover the cause. Press reports suggest the fire is connected to the October 9 murder of businessman Václav Ko?ka junior, whose father is engaged in the Incheba company and has been leasing the exhibition grounds since 2001. Václav Ko?ka senior is a friend of former Czech prime minister Ji?í Paroubek. However, authorities mentioned an accident – explosion of pressure gas cylinder – was the probable cause. Incheba said they have video of the explosion recorded from the security cameras.

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