Videos: Church burns down in Zuid-Holland village; locals devastated

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Fire hose (Photo: Vitaliy Ragulin / Wikimedia Commons)Fire hose (Photo: Vitaliy Ragulin / Wikimedia Commons)

The Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Geboorte church in Hoogmade, near Leiden was severely damaged in a fire on Monday. The spire collapsed and there are concerns about the stability of the rest of the tower and church. The fire department will soon investigate whether the building has to be demolished. Local residents are devastated. 

"The church is an important part of our society, and certainly in a small core like Hoogmade", mayor Marina van der Velde-Menting of Kaag en Braassem, which covers the Zuid-Holland village, said to NOS. "We sympathize with the residents and with all organizations in and around Hoogmade, for whom the church is an important place in the village to come together."

The fire broke out at around 12:30 p.m. Work was being done in the Roman Catholic Church. The fire started while paint was being burned, according to the broadcaster. The spire collapsed at around 3:30 p.m. No other buildings were affected by the collapse. 

An NL Alert was sent to local residents, warning them to stay away from the fire and keep their windows and doors closed. A number of houses and a nearby school were evacuated. 

Hoogmade counts around 1,400 inhabitants. The Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Geboorte church has been standing in the village since 1877. In the summer of 1929 a large part of the church collapsed due to problems with the foundations - only the large tower remained. Another church was built around it. 

The church is not a monument, and no special church treasures were kept there, although the church did contain a number of golden crosses, statutes and an organ, Henk Hoek said to NOS. He is a board member of the Franciscus Parish, which includes the church in Hoogmade. According to him, the work done when the fire started was regular paint maintenance. "It was the paintwork's turn. There was no overdue maintenance and there was no renovation. This church has always been well maintained with the help of volunteers. That makes this so sad: that all their work went up in flames in a few hours."

"It cuts through your soul", Hoek said to the broadcaster. The church has around 850 parishioners. "It is a very Catholic village. Almost all residents came to the church. It is very said that their church is now irreparably damaged."

Some locals hope that the remains of the tower can remain standing until the church can be demolished, Hoek said. "We are worried about that. Kerkstraat is a narrow street where everything is built close together. We don't even want to think about what can happen if the tower falls over."

Local resident Mark Tuitert was shocked by the fire in the village curch. "We suddenly had to pick our children up from school, because the school building is right next to the church. We live only 300 meters away ourselves." He calls the fire a "real blow" for Hoogmade. "The church is such a connecting factor in this small village. My wife and I got married there, our children were baptized there and my daughter recently did the holy communion there. Actually everyone went there regularly, also for school performances and activities organized by the associations in the village."

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