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Restorers face long effort at Petersburg cathedral after fire

ST. PETERSBURG, August 25 (RIA Novosti) - At least eighteen months will be needed to repair a St. Petersburg cathedral damaged in a major fire Friday, the head of a local museum protection watchdog said.

A fire broke out Friday afternoon in Trinity Cathedral, leading to the collapse of the main 80-meter-high dome of the major city landmark which recently underwent restoration. One of the cathedral's four smaller blue domes has also been consumed by the fire.

"The reconstruction will take about one and a half years," Vera Dementyeva said. "But this is possible given normal financing."

The head of emergencies' press-service said the fire, first reported at 5:30 p.m. local time (1:30 p.m. GMT), had been localized in about three hours, with firefighters having made almost impossible job to save the entire cathedral.

"At the very start we presumed that all the cathedral's domes would collapse," Grigory Gorbunov said. "But firefighters did almost the impossible and prevented fire from spreading." He added that the cathedral had been saved mainly because an emergency ministry firefighting helicopter had arrived at the scene.

Mikhail Dudko, a representative of the Moscow Patriarchy, called on believers to repent in the wake of the fire. "The destruction of any a church, regardless of what caused it, is always a great sadness and always a certain symbol, because Orthodox people believe that coincidences do not happen," he said.

Built in Russia's second biggest city in 1835, The Trinity Cathedral is on the Unesco World Heritage List as part of St. Petersburg's historical center.

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