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A cryptocurrency miner in Russia's Far East sets fire to his apartment building by overheating his equipment

Meduza

An apartment building in the Russian city of Artyom caught fire on February 6 because of a short circuit allegedly caused by overheated machinery being used to mine cryptocurrency. Police say the flames spread quickly among the upper floors because of high winds. Seven trucks from the Vladivostok airport joined local firefighters to put out the blaze, which took almost four hours. Though the fire started at roughly 3 a.m., miraculously no one was killed. One person was hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning, and the rest of the building’s residents have been relocated to a nearby hostel.

A man named Evgeny who lived in the building told Meduza that he woke up in the middle of the night when the courtyard suddenly started reflecting a bright light into his apartment. He says he went to the balcony to investigate the brightness, when he says he saw a man dressed in winter clothes fleeing the building. The man was carrying two computer desktop towers, which he dropped and picked up several times as he ran. In the apartment where the fire started, local rescue workers say they found “equipment that is similar in size to equipment for mining cryptocurrency,” including computer towers, cooling systems, video cards, and other hardware. Evgeny says he never met the person who rented the burned-out apartment, and it’s unknown who the suspect is or whether the police have managed to detain him.

The fire completely destroyed eight apartments and seriously damaged another forty. Heating pipes burst during the blaze, sending boiling water into apartments on lower floors that avoided the flames. The rooftops over four of the building’s seven entrances were wrecked. During the fire, the temperatures dipped to 28 degrees below freezing (-18.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Evgeny says repair crews have already restored the building’s heating and power, but his apartment still needs to dry out from all the water damage. In the meantime, he and his family are staying with relatives.

The building’s residents will have to pay their own repair costs, because they all own their apartments. A city official told a meeting of the building’s tenants that the government would have helped to cover some of these costs, if only a single resident had been renting from the city.

Story by Irina Kravtsova, translation by Yevgeny Kuklychev