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Thousands reopen Uffizi Gallery

Thousands of people waited for hours Sunday in the hot sun, pushing and jostling for position as the Uffizi Gallery reopened, less than a month after a bomb shattered the west wing.

"Never in the course of human endeavor have so few done so much for so many," said Culture Minister Alberto Ronchey, paraphrasing Winston Churchill in praising the Uffizi staff for its work in reopening the museum.

But the "so many" had to broil in the sun for an extra hour while Ronchey, Senate President Giovanni Spadolini and their entourage had a private tour, delaying the scheduled 11 a.m. opening.

The Uffizi is Italy's most popular museum.

The bomb, hidden in a stolen mini-van, shattered the west wing, killing five people, destroying the works of some old masters and damaging many others.

Almost all evidence of the bombing had been swept from view in the 60 percent of the museum reopened to the public.

Museum Director Anna Maria Petrioli Tofani said officials could not yet accurately estimate the costs of the damage or predict when the complex work to repair the severely damaged section of the museum would be complete.

It likely will be years before all of the 34 paintings damaged by the bomb will be completely restored.

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