NEW YORK (AP) _ A worker using a propane torch apparently started a fire that severely damaged a landmark Moorish-style synagogue in midtown Manhattan.

The Central Synagogue sustained heavy water damage in the fire that raged for three hours Friday evening, and a portion of the roof collapsed. The Torah scrolls had been removed because the temple was undergoing renovations, head Rabbi Peter Rubenstein said.

The synagogue, which is a city and national landmark, was completed in 1872, making it the oldest building in continuous use as synagogue in the city. It was designed by Henry Fernbach, one of the first Jewish architects in the country.

``It's devastating,'' said a member of the congregation, Lynn Silverman, 39. ``You have no idea how beautiful it is.''

First Deputy Fire Commissioner William Feehan said workers installing air conditioning were using propane torches to seal rubber around the air vents' copper fixtures.

About 250 firefighters with 45 trucks responded to the blaze. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries.