Fire breaks out at southern Russian electric station, caused by lightning or weapons fire

An electric transformer substation caught fire early Friday in the southern Russian region of North Ossetia, and investigators were mulling whether it had been hit by lightning or a grenade, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

There had been a thunderstorm in the area, said Sergei Petrov, a duty officer at the ministry's southern district office. But investigators were looking at the possibility that assailants had opened fire at the facility from a grenade-launcher, he said.

The fire was extinguished, and emergency response officials worked to cool it to prevent a new outbreak, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. The station supplies electricity to all distributing substations in North Ossetia, it said.

Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basayev has claimed responsibility for an explosion at a Moscow substation that resulted in an enormous power outage throughout much of the Russian capital and surrounding regions late last month. Officials have expressed skepticism over the claim, blaming the blackout instead on obsolete equipment. But authorities have reported attacks on electricity pylons and gas pipelines in southern Russia over the past few years.


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