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People living in a village in the Penza Region, central Russia,
People living in a village in the Penza Region, central Russia, said they were glad that members of a doomsday sect had finally quit the dugout where they had spent six months waiting for the end of the world.

"We are very glad that the people have come to the surface and no one was buried in the dugout," local residents in Nikolskoye village told RIA Novosti on Monday. People earlier said that they were tired of the permanent presence of journalists in their village.

The 35 doomsday sect members caught the public's attention after shutting themselves away in an underground cave in November to wait for the Apocalypse, which they claimed would come in May. They threatened to set themselves on fire if any attempt was made to remove them by force.

The long-running saga made local officials aware of some of the problems facing residents and local authorities even repaired roads to allow easier access to the cave, locals said.

A total of 24 members, including four children, left the dugout following the collapse of the dugout's roof after heavy rain in late March. The nine remaining cultists left their hideout on Friday amid fears they would be poisoned by toxic fumes from the rotting corpses of two females, who died some six months ago.

One of them is believed to have died from malnutrition brought about during fasting, and another from cancer. The bodies have been sent to Penza for identification and an autopsy. The results of the autopsies are due within a month, local authority spokesman Vladimir Provotorov said.

Twelve of the 35 cultists have returned to live in Nikolskoye village, where they came from, while five Belarusian women were deported earlier to Belarus.

The leader of a Russian doomsday sect, Pyotr Kuznetsov, has been admitted to an asylum in Penza, about 600 km (370 miles) southeast of Moscow, where he was held before being hospitalized in early April following an apparent suicide attempt.

Russia has seen a great number of sects throughout its history. One of the most famous of these was the Skoptsy, who castrated themselves and cut off women's breasts 'to avoid sexual temptation and sin'. The sect was first reported in the 18th century and is known to have still existed in the 1920s.

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