View of the Notre Dame cathedral after the fire in Paris, Tuesday, Photo: AP/Kamil Zihnioglu

Notre Dame smolders as investigation begins

By Matthias Blamont and Inti Landauro

Firefighters doused the smoldering ruins of Notre Dame with water on Tuesday, the morning after a raging inferno swept through the gothic cathedral in the heart of Paris as investigators tried to establish what started the fire.

Hundreds of firemen battled the blaze which consumed the roof and collapsed the eight-century-old cathedral's spire for more than eight hours before bringing it under control, saving its bell towers and outer walls.

Pockets of fire continued to burn inside the building and thorough checks on the cathedral's structural soundness would be needed, junior interior minister Laurent Nunez said.

The Paris prosecutor's office said it had launched an inquiry into the fire. Several police sources said they were working on the assumption for now that the fire was accidental.

"It's a symbol of our country that risked being destroyed," Culture Minister Franck Riester told CNews television.

A firefighter looks at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on Tuesday. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

Firefighters who entered the burning cathedral saved many of its treasures, Riester said, although some paintings remained inside and risked smoke and water damage.

The fire tore through the cathedral's timbered roofing, where workmen were carrying out extensive renovations to collapsed balustrades and crumbling gargoyles and the spire's wooden frame.

Hundreds of stunned onlookers lined the banks of the Seine river as the fire raged, reciting prayers and singing liturgical music in harmonies late into the night as they stood vigil.

President Emmanuel Macron promised France would rebuild Notre-Dame, considered among the finest examples of French Gothic cathedral architecture and visited by more than 13 million people annually.

"We will rebuild it together. It will undoubtedly be part of French destiny and our project for the years to come," Macron said outside the cathedral shortly before midnight.

France's Fondation du Patrimoine, a charity which works to protect French heritage, is launching an international appeal to raise funds for the rebuilding that is likely to cost hundreds of millions of euros.

Other campaigns were swiftly launched in the United States as well-wishers around the world pledged contributions via social media.

Two of France's wealthiest men, Francois-Henri Pinault, chief executive of the Kering group which owns brands including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, and Bernard Arnault, the main shareholder of luxury group LVMH, said they would donate 100 million euros ($113 million) and 200 million euros respectively.

"This tragedy strikes all the French and beyond all those who are attached to spiritual values," Pinault said in a statement.

A centuries-old crown of thorns made from reeds and gold and the tunic believed to have been worn by Saint Louis, a 13th century king of France, were saved, Notre Dame's top administrative cleric, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, said.

Copper statues representing the Twelve Apostles and four evangelists were removed by crane last week as part of the renovation work.

American tourist Susan Hargrove said she'd been left breathless by the scale of devastation.

"We are talking of world history, of our Western culture but also of something that is truly universal," Hargrove said."Notre Dame means something to everybody."

© Thomson Reuters 2019

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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The fire started in the roof in the section of work being undertaken. The remaining treasure have been removed to a safe storage. It's unlikely that anyone living today will ever again be able to visit.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

That photo suggests horrific damage. Whether it was a horrible accident, or deliberate, this is just awful on so many levels. The damage to the structure, its priceless contents, and to the hearts of decent people everywhere, is incalculable.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The restoration could be done by the modern 3-D printing. Instead of trying to restore the original add to the building

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Major restoration works were taken place, but no additional fire precautions in place, like a temporary sprinkler system. No fire service plan in place on how to act if there was a major fire.

The Palace of Westminster and Buckingham Palace are also being restored and they too should check their fire precautions.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The renovation may have caused the fire

Ironically, the renovation also saved artifacts, as many artifacts have already been taken out of the Cathedral before the renovation so that they would not be damaged during the renovation

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Macron tweeted that reconstruction will begin immediately “in a way consistent with our modern diverse culture.” The tweet was them deleted.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Speculating, I’d suggest the cause is likely connected with the renovations. Following any hot working, builders should reinspect their workspace before closing site. Unfortunately the reinspection often gets overlooked, even on complex sites operating a permit system. As often happens, the accident will probably be a failure to follow fire safety process, rather than there being no fire precautions. Very lucky only one firefighter was hurt.

If the French state gets involved, I would hope the building (if the stonework has indeed survived) could realistically be back in use in 10, certainly less than 20 years. Europes stonemasons are going to be very busy.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

With the money pledged from around the world, Notre Dame will open in 5 years , The wooden spire can be rebuilt in a year.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Following any hot working, builders should reinspect their workspace before closing site. 

There is a specialized society that is hired to check the whole site for fire (with heat detectors ?) during one hour after the last worker has left. We don't know yet if they had done it yesterday. No idea if the workers had already left.

the accident 

You know how that's an accident ?

certainly less than 20 years.

They remade Reims' (which was a really old one) in 2 decades after WW1. With technology of now, they can remake this mid- 19th century building in a couple years. Renovating a crowded subway line OTOH that takes decades... Rich sponsors think they are more likely to go to the mass for crowning an emperor than to use public transportation.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Rose windows have survived. Fire probably started, according to the news, from a flame from the restorers.

It could be rebuilt just by selling the Mona Lisa.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The materials used are no longer available like huge oak beams for the roof.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The fire started in the early evening so probably not that long after the contractors left site. I’m still thinking hot works failure but we’ll have to wait for the fire officers investigation, if there’s enough evidence left to come to any conclusion.

A full restoration in reasonable time is feasible if money is no object. The materials are certainly available. It will take quite some time to research and replace all that lost fine carved woodwork, if that’s the way they go with the restoration.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A full restoration in reasonable time is feasible if money is no object. The materials are certainly available. It will take quite some time to research and replace all that lost fine carved woodwork, if that’s the way they go with the restoration.

You're right Swiss Toni. You know, someone once said to be that rebuilding a priceless piece of architecture is like making love to beautiful woman. It will take time, but if money is no object, it can be done. And yes, it can be done. We will rebuild Notre Dame.

And Notre Dame will take time, and a whole lot of spending money, to do it right. The late George Harrison said something a bit like this but his words are quite resonant now.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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