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Finland’s Church Burns To Ashes On Christmas, Malicious Intent Suspected

“I suppose there is now some suspicion of malicious intent because no other reasonable cause has been found,” Vicar at Ruokolahti Parish Leena Haakana told Yle.

A centuries-old South Karelian church in Finland’s municipality of Rautjarvi was burned to the ground on Sunday, Dec 26 in an act that is being labelled as “malicious.” The blazes flared and spread to the entire religious facility so quickly that the authorities had no other option but to let it burn to the ground. The Southeastern Finland police told the local Finnish newspaper Yle that the fire may have been started intentionally and that it was “foul play.” Finnish authorities said that there was a lack of any “reasonable causes” that may have started the massive fire during the Christmas service. This incident was accompanied by another fire incident nearby. A preliminary investigation was ordered into a fire and the case was being looked at as “aggravated property damage.” 

‘Some suspicion of malicious intent’: Police 

The fire in the Rautjärvi church broke out during a Christmas service, and the cause is still unknown, the Police Department of Southeastern Finland told the paper. At the time, there were an estimated 40 worshippers that were inside the church during the service, they added. As the blazes spread, everyone was evacuated to safety. The damage caused to the wooden church was massive, the police furthermore noted.  Ruokolahti Parish Vicar Leena Haakana, meanwhile stressed that the case appears to be an  intentional torching of the church and that there was “no other reasonable cause.”

“I suppose there is now some suspicion of malicious intent because no other reasonable cause has been found. One would hope that this is not the case, but suspicions are now pointing in that direction. The matter is still being investigated though, and I can’t say any more about it,” Vicar at Ruokolahti Parish Leena Haakana told Yle.”

It is also being established if the incident was linked with another fire that broke out at the same time in a detached house several kilometers away that left one dead. Investigation officer Timo Valle told the paper that the possibility of the two incidents being related is being probed by the authorities. A rope and string was also found on the side doors of the church by the police which suggests that there was a conscious effort to block the people from exiting the building at the time fire broke out. No one was hurt in the blaze. 

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