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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Blaze Destroys Mariinsky Sets

APThe gutted warehouse where a fire destroyed sets for four productions on Friday.
ST. PETERSBURG -- A fire swept through a warehouse at St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater early Friday, destroying the building and decorations for many productions by the world-famous opera and ballet company.

Firefighters rushed to the site when the fire erupted about 3 a.m. but failed to prevent the roof and all four floors of the 19th-century building, located about a kilometer away from the theater, from collapsing three hours later.

Five firefighters were injured and the sets for four productions by the theater -- including the opera "Eugene Onegin," which was soon to go on tour to Japan -- were destroyed.

"Not all, but the bulk of decorations were destroyed. It is a real tragedy for the theater," Mariinsky deputy art director Svetlana Ostanina said on NTV.

It was unclear what caused the fire, but NTV quoted eyewitnesses as saying an unidentified man was seen dousing the building in kerosene and setting it alight.

Theater conductor Valery Gergiev told theater officials to focus on restoring sets before the start of the new season Oct. 10, a spokesman said.

"Emotions are not the most important thing now. The main thing is to renovate and save the sets. Then come the emotions," theater spokesman Igor Kirsanov said.

Theater officials said they had formed a commission to assess the damage but declined comment on the tour's future.

The Mariinsky Theater -- also known as the Kirov -- was built in 1859 and is home to leading opera and ballet companies that frequently tour the world. In June, a French architect was chosen as winner of a competition to design a new building for the renowned theater. (AP, Reuters)