Dutch police investigate explosion at lockdown-defying church

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
A firework explosion damaged the building in the early hours of Tuesday.
A firework explosion damaged the building in the early hours of Tuesday.   -  Copyright  Politie/Nieuws op Beeld

Police in the Netherlands are investigating an explosion in Rotterdam, which has damaged a church that had previously defied COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Residents of Krimpen aan den Ijssel said they were woken up on Tuesday by a loud explosion at the Mieraskerk church at around 04.30.

Dutch police say the blast was caused by fireworks and are appealing for witnesses. No injuries have been reported following the incident.

"Neighbours were startled this morning by a loud bang," police said in a statement.

"An investigation by the police's forensic investigation department indicated that the bang was caused by fireworks."

The explosion damaged the front window of the church among other things, the authorities added.

The Mieraskerk church drew media attention over the weekend after it opened service to its entire congregation despite a tough coronavirus lockdown in the Netherlands.

Hundreds of worshippers had attended the service in Krimpen even though restrictions limit public gatherings to fewer than 30 people.

But because of religious freedom laws, the Dutch government is not allowed to intervene in churches or impose fines.

Police did however arrest a 43-year-old man for assaulting a journalist who was reporting outside the Protestant church in Krimpen.

Three others were also detained around the country for attacking journalists outside churches that had reopened.

Earlier this month, an explosion destroyed windows at a COVID-19 testing centre in the northern town of Bovenkarpsel.The blast occurred on the first night of a national curfew in the Netherlands.

On Tuesday, Dutch authorities said it would extend anti-virus restrictions until April 20, while reducing the duration of the curfew by one hour.