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1 Apr, 2008 12:11

Cracks appear in Penza cult as 14 quit bunker

Fourteen of the remaining 28 cult members in Russia's Penza region have left their underground bunker. They had promised to stay until April 27. However spring flood waters caused a partial collapse in the cave's roof, and a few days ago some of the membe

The emergency services have removed barricades from the entrance to the cave.

“The shelter kept caving in, and opening some of the entrance. Today, a fourth collapse happened and another entrance opened up to the cave. Those inside thought this was a sign from above, that God had opened the cave for a fourth time, and they came out, because of that sign,” Oleg Melnichenko, Vice-Governor of Penza region, said.

Local authorities had been warning that flood waters were gradually damaging the hide-out. Police and rescuers have been placed on guard outside the cave.

The leader of the Doomsday cultists Pyotr Kuznetsov had been brought to the site to help negotiators persuade the cult members to leave their bunker.

Earlier he had been confirmed mentally unfit and was kept in an asylum in Penza.

Thirty-five people, including four children, went underground last November. They were planning to stay there until May, when they claimed the Apocalypse would happen.

Doomsday Cult history

The group spent one and a half months digging the cave, where they planned to wait for the end of the world.

The founder of the doomsday believers, Pyotr Kuznetsov, oversaw the preparations and made sure the cult members had enough food to last them for a while.

Kuznetsov himself did not go down, saying he had another mission to complete on earth.

For several months, the only sign of life underground was the steam coming out of ventilation pipes.

With a bit of effort, one could also hear snippets of conversation.

Police established a 24-hour patrol of the area, which was sealed off.

Intense negotiations which involved local authorities, Orthodox priests and relatives of those underground, proved fruitless.