It was half past seven on Christmas morning, in the middle of the sermon, a fire broke out in the Rautyarvi Church in South Karelia.
Parish priest Lena Hakana, who was not there, told news agency STT that the priest discovered the fire. First he saw smoke coming from the main entrance – then he saw flames. At the same time, the fire alarm went off.
According to the information in the newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, someone must have tried to tie two of the church doors with rope because of the fire.
“Fortunately, it was so loose that they could have been pushed,” Carey Loumou, a former vicar in the congregation who was present at the service, tells the paper.
It was said that about 30 people were inside the church and managed to escape before the building caught fire.
Investigation with serious vandalism
Police are secretive about the details of the fire, but say they suspect foul play. According to a police press release on Christmas Eve, another fire near the church is suspected to be related to the church fire. In connection with this fire, a dead body was found during the day.
“The investigation into the case in Rautjärvi is still at an early stage, but the police will launch a preliminary investigation into the fire,” Harri Hortanenen of Police in Southeast Finland said in the press release.
The case is classified as gross vandalism, but according to the police, this may change during the course of the investigation.
The wooden church was built in 1881 after the previous church, standing in the exact same place, burned down in 1872. It was one of the largest wooden churches in Finland with a capacity of 1,200 churchgoers.
– Now there are only ruins left, and everything has burned down, says Linda Wellen-Vegalainen, who lives near the church. HBL.
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