Fire breaks out at bell tower of Moscow's Unesco site Novodevichy convent

MOSCOW - A fire broke out on Sunday night at the bell tower of Moscow's historic Novodevichy convent, a Unesco world heritage site and the burial place of many prominent figures.

Flames from construction scaffolding around the bell tower, which has been under renovation, rose high above the Moscow skyline as firefighters struggled to protect one of the city's most beloved landmarks, The Guardian reported.

The fire had started in the scaffolding about 30 metres above the ground, and moved up to the top of the tower, which is more than 70 metres high, local media quoted law enforcement sources as saying.

Alexander Gavrilov, first deputy director of the Moscow branch of the emergency situations ministry, said "there is no danger of the fire spreading", according to local reports.

No one was injured and the interior of the bell tower was not damaged, he added.

Novodevichy convent was built in the 16th and 17th centuries and is one of Moscow's most popular tourist attractions, The Guardian reported. Legend has it that Napoleon said he wouldn't leave Moscow until he saw Novodevichy burn, and his soldiers supposedly attempted to blow up the convent's main cathedral. Much of the rest of Moscow was destroyed during the French invasion.

A number of well-known figures have been buried in the convent's cemetery, including writers Anton Chekhov and Nikolai Gogol, composers Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, and former president Boris Yeltsin, The Guardian reported.