(Melbourne, Australia) – A fire that broke out sometime after Easter at The Holy Annunciation of Our Lady in Melbourne, Australia, has been extinguished. However, not without creating around $500,000 worth of damage. The blaze, which broke out over the weekend, was mainly contained to the roof. Mr.Costas Papaconstantinou, a church commissioner and owner of a nearby store, noticed the fire and called the fire department. Emergency responders were at the scene within minutes and the fire was contained in under an hour. The fire, however, resulted in the evacuation of roughly 200 area residents for various reasons, including the high amount of asbestos located on the property. Witnesses noticed that the smoke that was coming out of the building before the fire was contained was very thick and smelled of burned rubber.
Shortly after the Orthodox Easter church services, parishioners did report that the church did have a smell as if something was burning. Upon investigating the smell, though, no source of fire was immediately found. The fire become noticeable long after people went home. Preliminary reports show that the fire began in the women’s quarters of the church, but the cause of the fire isn’t known at this time. There was no one inside of the building at the time of the fire and all of the parishioners remain safe.
The Holy Annunciation of Our Lady is the oldest Greek Orthodox Church in the area and is roughly 130 years old. Since then, it has been an important part of the Greek community in Melbourne and it is also Victoria’s oldest Greek church and one of the oldest in Australia and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, which tracks historic buildings in Victoria. Victoria Parade remains closed after the blaze for safety reasons, largely because there was a large amount of asbestos present in the region. Even though the fire was contained to the roof, the church did sustain a lot of damage, including damage to several icons, many of which have been part of the church since it was built. This church was built shortly after the historic Greek Orthodox Church in Sydney was built.