Notre Dame ‘was within minutes of complete destruction’
Emmanuel Macron promises to rebuild cathedral ‘more beautiful than before’
Notre Dame Cathedral was within “15 to 30 minutes” of complete destruction, French authorities have revealed.
Parisian fire fighters risked their lives when they remained inside the burning building to create a wall of water between the fire and two towers on the west facade.
French minister Laurent Nuñez said that the fire brigade had extinguished flames that could have razed the building. Senior fire officers feared that if the heavy wooden-framed belfries fell, so would the towers below, leading to the destruction of the cathedral.
The fire still caused immense damage which has left “a hole in the heart of Paris”, The Guardian says. It is a building that “belongs to all admirers of architectural beauty and we all have an interest in its rebirth from the ashes,” The Times says. Anne-Elisabeth Moutet offers a more positive perspective, writing in the Daily Telegraph that her “divided country has been united by the flames of Notre-Dame”.
Meanwhile, French president Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the Notre Dame “more beautiful than before” and within five years. “We can do it,” he continued. “After the time of testing comes a time of reflection and then of action.”
He also said the project would be “passionately French”, saying it would unite people. “It is up to us to convert this disaster into an opportunity,” Macron added.
Around €700m (£605m) in donations has come in for the rebuilding process. The French billionaire François-Henri Pinault donated €100m (£86.4m) while LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault offered €200m (£173m) to reconstruct the “symbol of France”.
Some €200m (£173m) was pledged by French luxury and cosmetics group L'Oreal and French energy company Total will donate €100m (£86.4m).
As the authorities begin the process of establishing how the fire broke out, around 30 workers who tackling the renovations on the roof - where the fire started - are being questioned over the outbreak of the blaze.
Le Parisien has reported that investigators believe that an electrical short-circuit on a lift installed near the base of the Gothic building’s spire to aid renovations may have caused the fire.
It has emerged that an alarm at 6.20pm on Monday was dismissed as false after no evidence of fire was found after a computer malfunction had sent fire fighters to the wrong part of the building.
It was only when a second alarm sounded 33 minutes later that emergency services called to the cathedral, which has three firefighters on the premises.
Theresa May says that bells would be rung at churches and cathedrals across England in solidarity with France. The Prime Minister said that Notre Dame was “one of the most beautiful buildings in the world — a symbol of France and the French people, and cherished across the globe. The images of destruction we saw were truly heartrending.”
The Queen said: “Prince Philip and I have been deeply saddened to see the images of the fire. I extend my sincere admiration to the emergency services who have risked their lives. My thoughts and prayers are with those who worship at the cathedral and all of France at this difficult time.”