Police say Canterbury church fire was deliberate

| August 7, 2009

Police say the fire which gutted a 132-year-old historic church in Christchurch was deliberately lit.

Fire fighters were called to Saint Paul’s Trinity in the central city at around 3.30am.

Fire staff quickly brought the flames under control but the damage to the church, and its large Pacific Island congregation, had already been done.

An impromptu service was held today for Pacific Island church goers to mourn the loss of their historic church.

Parishioner Gaseilevao faletolu says the senseless destruction of the building church was almost too much to bear.

“This is where all of us have grown up and been brought up it’s like a second home,” she says

The blaze was first spotted by a passing police patrol.

Six fire appliance and two specialist units brought it under control but the prized $800,000 organ was destroyed.

Nine hours after the blaze was put out its ceiling was still crumbling.

Police say the fire was started using a mattress propped up against one of the church’s wooden doors – a popular spot for the homeless.

St Paul’s Trinity church reverend Lapana Faletolu says he is unsure who to blame.

“People sleep around the church and the facilities here and I just can’t put a finger on whether it’s them or someone else," he says.

Mr Faletolu says it will be at least a year before his congregation will be able to return to the church.

But along with the grief parishioners are also counting their blessings, just last week the church increased its insurance cover from $1.5 million to $4.5 million.



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Category: Church Security

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