Notre Dame fire was likely accident, not arson

OLIVIER MORIN,GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT,BERTRAND GUAY  AFP  Getty

OLIVIER MORIN,GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT,BERTRAND GUAY AFP Getty

"My father and myself have chose to release a sum of €100 million from our Artemis funds [the family holding company] to participate in the effort that will be necessary for the complete reconstruction of Notre-Dame", Pinault said in a statement obtained by French newspaper Le Figaro.

A second alarm went off at 6:43 p.m., by which time the roof underneath the spire was on fire, he said.

"Everything would have collapsed", said Lt Col Michael Bernier, a fire chief who speaks for France's civil defence organisation and who described the suggestion as "risible".

Pierluigi Pericolo, in charge of restoration and security at the St. Donatian basilica in Nantes, said it could take two to five years just to secure Notre Dame, given its size.

Now that the fire is out and we know that many of Notre Dame's precious relics have been saved, we can marvel at the 400 pompiers - or firefighters as we call them in English - who risked their lives running into the cathedral, uncertain whether the burning roof above them would collapse.

French President Emmanuel Macron ratcheted up the pressure by setting a five-year deadline to restore the 12th-century landmark.

France's President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the Gothic monument within five years as pledges from French billionaires, businesses and the public sector to help reach some $790 million.

The construction of Notre-Dame de Paris began in 1163 and was completed in 1345.

Devastation: the damage inside the cathedral.

However, there are concerns that even the $1 billion pledged so far may not be able to replace what was lost in the blaze - it also depends on the availability of materials.

Likewise, the centuries-old timber within the building's internal structure, much of which was crafted into an intricate support structure by medieval artisans, may be irreplaceable.

Air France said it would offer free flights to experts brought in to help with Notre-Dame's renovation.

"Those trees had been saplings in the 10th century, they were mature trees by the 12th century when they were felled".

Hundreds of firefighters worked through the night to bring the fire under control. A government official said the cathedral's greatest paintings would be removed starting Friday. "But perhaps it can't be recreated as it was".

The 850-year-old Gothic cathedral was home to dozens of objects of cultural and historical significance, including the holy crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion and the tunic of Saint Louis.

Sister Madeleine, a Dominican nun from Paris, was visibly upset when she arrived to inspect Notre Dame, a day after the blaze.

"It's a very deep sadness. It was hard to imagine this could ever happen".

Lt Col Gabriel Plus of the Paris fire brigade said that "everything was against" the first firefighters on Monday. Until the Eiffel Tower was unveiled for the 1889 World's Fair, Notre Dame was the tallest structure in the French capital.

One of the group's members, Ron Ivey, said he was "heartbroken".

But the cathedral's walls, bell towers and the most famous circular stained-glass windows at France's most visited tourist attraction remain intact.

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