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Italy's Uffizi museum struck by lightning, saved from fire
Last Updated: 2017-12-01 10:47 | Xinhua
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A treasure trove of Italian Renaissance masterpieces narrow escaped being destroyed by fire after lightning struck the Uffizi Gallery in Florence early on Thursday.

Firefighters rushed to the 16th-century building designed by architect and art historian Giorgio Vasari after museum staff sighted what they thought was smoke coming from the attic of the world-renowned museum.

The Uffizi Gallery houses priceless masterpieces by the likes of Botticelli, Caravaggio, and Michelangelo.

Uffizi director Eike Schmidt announced no fire had broken out, the precious artworks were safe, and the museum would open as usual, albeit a little later than normal.

The building's fire extinguishing system had been triggered when lightning hit the Uffizi's prints and drawings department during an electrical storm that set off alarms all over Florence early morning on Thursday, Schmidt told RAI public broadcaster.

"As expected, the department filled with fire-retardant dust, which was later expelled by the air conditioning vents towards the roof," Schmidt explained.

It was this fire-retardant dust that was mistaken for smoke, he said. "Firefighters intervened immediately. Luckily, no fire had broken out and no artworks or people were harmed," the museum director said.

The Uffizi's collection of Renaissance paintings includes masterpieces by Giotto, Piero dellaFrancesca, Beato Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Mantegna, Correggio, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Over two million people visited it in 2016, according to the Italian ministry of culture figures.

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