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BETHESDA, Md. (Reuters) - The oldest monument dedicated to George Washington, the first president of the United States, has been partially damaged in a violent lightning storm in Maryland, officials said on Friday.
The storm toppled an upper-section of the 188-year-old stone structure on Thursday afternoon, according to Maryland Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thompson.
The Maryland edifice, a three-story, solid-stone structure 54 feet (16 meters) in diameter located in Middletown, about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Washington, will be closed indefinitely for repairs, Thompson said.
"It's a process," she said. "You don't just go to Home Depot and get a trowel and mortar and go at it."
The structure predates the Washington Monument obelisk in the nation's capital.
An engineer who inspected the historic monument on Friday found it was damaged, but structurally sound, Thompson said.
A bolt of lightning directly hit the structure, she said.
Three nearby hikers seeking shelter from the storm inside the structure were blown out of it by the sheer force of the bolt, Thompson said.
One hiker received treatment for lacerations, the other two were stunned, but uninjured.
Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Sandra Maler