Latvian presidential palace suffers serious fire

AFP-JIJI, AP

Firefighters were called Thursday night to a massive roof fire at the centuries-old Riga Castle, which normally is the seat of the Latvian president but currently is under renovation.

No one was believed to be injured or killed, state fire services spokeswoman Viktorija Sembele said. “It is serious because it is an historic building in Old Riga,” she added, saying the cause was not yet known.

Witnesses told reporters that large sections of the building’s roof were ablaze, with several fire engines attempting to bring the flames under control.

“It covers approximately 100 sq. meters, and work is ongoing, with more than 10 fire crews present,” Sembele said. “The army was also asked to help with a helicopter capable of dropping water from the nearby River Daugava.”

She added that a cruise ship moored by the castle was moved to enable firefighting boats to bring water over to the scene.

Riga Castle, parts of which date from the early 13th century, houses the National History Museum and normally also the offices of Latvian President Andris Berzins. But because of ongoing renovation, the offices have been temporarily moved to the Blackheads House, another historic landmark in the Latvian capital.

The extent of the damage was not immediately clear, including whether the fire damaged the museum and its artifacts, reported the Baltic News Service.