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Notre-Dame cathedral: Macron pledges reconstruction after fire

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild the medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame after a major fire partially destroyed the Paris landmark.

Firefighters managed to save the 850-year-old Gothic building’s main stone structure, including its two towers, but the spire and roof collapsed.

The fire was declared under control almost nine hours after it started.

The cause is not yet clear but officials say it could be linked to extensive renovation works under way.

Paris prosecutor’s office said it was currently being investigated as an accident. A firefighter was lightly injured while tackling the blaze, Commander Jean-Claude Gallet told BFM TV.

It is expected to take several days to completely extinguish the fire.

Macron: ‘Terrible tragedy’
Visiting the site on Monday night, Mr Macron said the “worst had been avoided” with the preservation of the cathedral’s main structure as he pledged to launch an international fundraising scheme for the reconstruction.

“We’ll rebuild this cathedral all together and it’s undoubtedly part of the French destiny and the project we’ll have for the coming years,

“That’s what the French expect [and] because it’s what our history deserves,” he added, visibly emotional, calling it a “terrible tragedy”. Macron said.

Billionaire François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of the Kering group that owns the Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent fashion brands, has already pledged €100m (£86m; $113m) towards rebuilding Notre-Dame, AFP news agency reports.

The French charity Fondation du Patrimoine is launching an international appeal for funds for the cathedral, a Unesco World Heritage site.

The fire started at around 18:30 (16:30 GMT) on Monday and quickly reached the roof of the cathedral, destroying its stained-glass windows and the wooden interior before toppling the spire.

Firefighters then spent hours working to prevent one of the iconic bell towers from collapsing. Search teams are now assessing the extent of the damage.

Sections of the building were under scaffolding as part of the renovations and 16 copper statues had been removed last week. Work began after cracks appeared in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable.

Mr Macron said the cathedral was “for all French people”, including those who had never been there, and praised the “extreme courage” of the 500 firefighters involved in the operation.

Mayor: ‘Artwork in safe place’
Emergency teams managed to rescue valuable artwork and religious items, including what is said to be the crown of thorns worn by Jesus before his crucifixion, which were stored inside the cathedral built in the 12th and 13th centuries.

A tunic, which King Louis IX is said to have worn when he brought the crown of thorns to Paris, was also saved.

“We had a chain of solidarity, especially in saving the works of art… [They] were able to be saved and put in a safe place,” said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. “This is a tragedy for the whole world… Notre-Dame is the entire history of Paris.”

Historian Camille Pascal told French broadcaster BFMTV that “invaluable heritage” had been destroyed. “Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre-Dame. We can be only horrified by what we see.”

 

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