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1 Apr, 2008 18:24

Cracks appear in Penza cult as 14 quit bunker

Fourteen more members of a Doomsday cult have left their underground hide-out in Russia's Penza region. They follow the seven believers who emerged last week. They've been holed up since the end of October awaiting the end of the world, which they believe

While negotiations have been ongoing since last November, it's again nature which has prompted the latest batch of cult members to come out. After the second cave-in in the last few days half those staying in the underground bunker have emerged bringing two of the four remaining children with them.

However, 14 others, including two young children, still remain underground. With more sections of the bunker collapsing authorities believe their safety is in serious danger. Psychologists, rescuers, Orthodox priests and cult members, including the cult's leader, Pyotr Kuznetsov, are trying their best to persuade them to come out.

“We've enlarged the exit. Earlier, they had to crawl out. Now they can walk out normally. The only thing left to do is to continue the negotiations tomorrow. They’ve asked us to leave them alone for today. The two girls, who we visited today, played with a puppy in the yard. They are doing fine,” said the region's vice-governor, Oleg Melnichenko.

Police have cordoned off the area, banning journalists and locals from disturbing them. So far 21 doomsday cult members have surfaced, but they remain set on their path and have barricaded themselves in two different houses, saying they’ll continue their seclusion until Easter at least.