After the tragedy of February 14, 2004, when the cupola of Transvaal aquapark collapsed in Moscow, there appeared a number of alarming publications dealing with the problem of stability of the capital's engineering structures.
"The Big City" weekly published an article by A. Makeev and A. Lyuty abounding in facts of accidents in residential houses. The biggest one took place in December 1967: a five-storied house collapsed in Osipenko street, and 147 people died. According to the conclusion of the special commission, it resulted from the domestic gas explosion. However, it was also pointed out that "in 1932 at this same place a baker's shop blew up without any visible reasons and in 1902 a house for rent fell through, though neither of these buildings were gasified". On the basis of these and similar mysterious happenings, the authors asserted that "Our city's location is rather unhappy.
According to some specialists, peculiarities of the geological structure of Moscow bowels stipulate various catastrophes and accidents in the city."
According to A. Makeev and A. Lyuty, from time immemorial people tried to avoid territories somehow attracting misfortunes. The 18th century naturalist M. Lomonosov allegedly taught to recognize them: "Godforsaken places are distinguished by trees that are crooked, rotten and seem older than they really are."
Undoubtedly there are such places in the vast Moscow region. However, it was confirmed in the 20th century that vegetation anomalies are explained almost exclusively by peculiarities of geochemical situation that is dependent primarily on technogenic factors. The above-mentioned great scientist pointed out some typical features that allow to find deposits of chemically active raw materials: "Mountains rich in ores or other minerals, are usually characterized by trees that are unhealthy, i.e. their leaves are pale and they themselves are low, crooked, brownish, with many boughs, rotten and dry early."
It is believed that initially Moscow was built on seven hills. But in the course of its expansion and increasing construction density, some of its streets, quarters, houses started appearing on low river banks, streams and lakes, on the grounds covered with silt and peat. This is also typical of a lot of cities of the world. Some of them for centuries underwent crucial earthquakes, floods and tsunami.* Nevertheless, inhabitants of Tokyo, Los Angeles, Lisbon and Mexico City think less of natural catastrophes
* See: M. Rodkin, "Natural Supercatastrophes", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1998. - Ed.
than Muscovites. Why so? Is it possible that the natural foundation of our capital is so unsafe?
The answer to this question can be found in an interview with the head of the Center for Instrumental Observations Over the Environment and Geophysical Prognoses I. Yanitsky Dr. Sc. (Phys. & Math.), (Nezavisimaya gazeta - Nauka, 2004). In his opinion, "Moscow stands on the cross-section of two transcontinental fractures surrounded, as a broken plate, by smaller fractures. All in all several dozens of them. All these fractures are saturated with water, which soaks underground layers of the capital, as a jam in a cake. That is why construction can be carried out only in places, where there are deep-seated underground islets."
The same was confirmed by the senior researcher of the RAS Institute of Earth Physics, named after O. Schmidt, V. Rudakov, Dr. Sc. (Phys. & Math.): "Moscow's territory is unique for its geodynamic nature. There are very few such cities. It is situated within... geological fold with a negative form of bedding, i.e. of structure, by its form resembling almost an open book with its back down. In such structure sedimentary rocks seemingly float in water, as icebergs in the Arctic Ocean. It is said that Hitler intended to flood Moscow: he knew that it was easier than to burn it down, as was once attempted by his predecessor-conqueror from France" (NG-Nauka, No. 9, 2004).
In 1812, during Napoleon's invasion the fire destroyed almost all wooden buildings. But the Fiihrer was undoubtedly deluded by the informers: was it possible to get so much water as to be able to raise the level of the Moskva river even for
10 m? And how can one contend that the water-saturated sedimentary rocks contained in the capital's foundation are like icebergs? We are dealing with underground horizons filling in pores and fractures, that's all. It is an absolutely natural and all-embracing phenomenon.
As for the geological structure within which our capital is located, deep-seated fractures and the like, that cannot be called a unique case. Though V. Rudakov writes: "We have managed to reveal hydrogen anomalies, the most intensive of which is located in the centre of Moscow-even under the Kremlin. Hydrogen is an extremely explosive gas when its concentration reaches certain levels." But then it is expedient to specify what kind of anomaly is present in the "heart" of the capital to avoid an impression that "a kind of a bomb" is forming there.
Undoubtedly the engineering and geological situation on Moscow's territory is rather mixed and complex. Here and there it consists of insecure types of ground like drift-sands (water-saturated dust-like sands), river silt blankets and buried peat-bogs. However, taking into account the size of megalopolis and the number of various structures on its territory, including underground and tall buildings, it must be admitted: serious accidents happen rarely to them, and if any, mainly due to technogenic reasons.
And that is only natural. A multitude of underground communications, different tunnels, subway lines, deep depressions, caves, left on the place of former basements and wells, etc. undoubtedly affect the stability of buildings, as well as the density of buildings, number of floors, and so on. Extremely dangerous are karst and suffusion phenomena, as a result of which underground cavitations are formed. There exist falling slopes, growing ravines...
Specialists have been aware of these phenomena for a long time.* There is nothing extraordinary in that. So, is it permissible to make such conclusions: "geological foundation of the capital is a 'multilayer' sea with a multitude of islets";
"Russia's capital is 'floating' in water, as an iceberg in the Arctic Ocean"?
It will be only fair to admit that the aforesaid publications express an opinion on probable catastrophic consequences of accelerated construction of a multitude of tall buildings in Moscow.
It goes without saying that there are almost no plots with safe natural foundation for such structures within the Moscow Ring Highway. Though even in such "god-forsaken" places is it possible to lay pile foundations, to carry out land improvement and other measures that can guarantee the safety of buildings?
"Bolshoi gorod" ("Big City"), Nezavisimaya gazeta - Nauka, 2004
Prepared and illustrations supplied by Rudolf ВALANDIN
* See: V. Adushkin, A. Spivakov, "Megalopolis: Problems of Geophysical Fields", Science in Russia, No. 5, 1995. - Ed.
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