August 25, 2006

Fire destroys St. Petersburg cathedral domes

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - A fire gutted a 19th
century cathedral in the heart of Russia's second city on
Friday, destroying its famous azure domes which attract
thousands of tourists every year.

As flames leapt from the main dome of the Troitsky
(Trinity) Cathedral -- one of the largest wooden domes in
Europe -- passers-by helped to rescue priceless artifacts from
its renowned art and religious icon collection.

"The fire services don't have long enough ladders to reach
the top of the dome. They have been aiming their water guns at
the middle section," Reuters photographer Alexander Demyanchuk
said by telephone from outside the cathedral.

The cathedral had been covered by wooden scaffolding during
reconstruction work when the fire started.

"The main dome has been destroyed but we could not stop the
fire because it was so high and now other domes are in flames,"
a spokesman for Russia's emergencies ministry told Interfax
news agency.

Emergency services said there had been no casualties.

The Troitsky Cathedral, built overlooking one of central St
Petersburg's canals, is big enough to hold 3,000 worshippers
and also housed the military uniforms of Russian 19th century