CUZCO, Peru – A massive fire has completely ruined the famous church of San Sebastian in the Peruvian colonial city of Cuzco.

Residents watched in despair as the blaze burned the gilded altar and valuable paintings inside the 16th-century church, the BBC reported.

The fire began in the early hours of Friday. The authorities say it was probably caused by a short circuit.


Firefighters said hydrants in the area were not working and were only repaired two hours later.

The local priest urged residents to try to save the church. They rushed to a nearby river to collect water, but it was too late.


The building is still standing but most of the church’s ornate interior has been destroyed.

The church had undergone extensive restoration work between 2008 and 2013.

Architect Americo Carrillo, who oversaw the work, described the church as “a jewel of Peru’s colonial era”.

The city of Cuzco was the capital of the Inca Empire, which was destroyed by the Spanish conquest of most of the Americas.