The worst fire in recent years has badly damaged Riga Castle, the medieval fortress that is also the official residence of the Latvian president. President Berzims described the fire as a national disaster as the castle also houses the National Museum.
The biggest damage was done to the depositories of the local history museum, as well as the museum of literature and music. Part of the exhibits were protected, and about a hundred of the most valuable items were moved to a safe place. Latvia’s Minister of Culture Janeta Jaunzeme-Grende personally took part in the rescue operations.
The fire broke out late on Thursday and ripped through the roof and the attic, according to the Baltic News Service.
A spokeswoman for the State Fire and Rescue Service, Viktorija Sembele, confirmed that the overnight blaze damaged the roof and the second and third floors of the castle.
There have been no reports of
injuries. One firefighter was treated for smoke
Sembele said some valuable relics in the museum suffered water damage, none were destroyed, however.
Latvia's President, Andris Berzins was not staying at the castle, as the historic building is currently being renovated.
Local authorities mobilized ten fire crews to tackle the blaze.
The head of Latvia’s fire rescue department described the fire as “the largest and worst in recent years in Riga”.
Firemen were combatting the blaze throughout the night.
A helicopter was provided by the army to drop water from the nearby Daugava River.
“[Our] equipment dates back to Soviet times. Of course, we do
our best to keep in good order so we could use it any moment. But
as experience shows during bad fires weaknesses manifest
themselves, as it happened this time around. Let’s put it this
way, our pumping station has failed us,” Oscars Abolinsh said
in an interview with Latvian radio.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.