Wednesday 13 December 2017

Bullet-proof glass wall to protect Eiffel Tower

Security barriers under the Eiffel Tower. Photo: Getty Images
Security barriers under the Eiffel Tower. Photo: Getty Images

Rory Mulholland in Paris

A bullet-proof glass wall is to be built around the base of the Eiffel Tower as part of a plan to provide extra protection against terrorist attacks at one of the world's most famous landmarks.

The eight-foot-high wall will cost around €20m and will replace the metal barriers set up as a temporary measure around the iconic tower during the Euro football tournament last summer.

"We have three aims: improve the look, make access easier and strengthen the protection of visitors and staff," Paris deputy mayor Jean-François Martins said.

He said the glass wall was part of an ambitious €300m overhaul over the next 15 years of the 1,063ft tower that was completed in 1889 as the entrance to the World Fair of that year.

It includes a complete reorganisation of the space directly under the tower and the surrounding park, a series of maintenance works, and a plan to reduce time spent by people queueing to climb the structure designed by Gustave Eiffel.

The wall is aimed at preventing attackers or vehicles storming the tourist site that is visited by seven million people each year.

Officials insist it will be in aesthetic harmony with the tower, which was originally intended to be pulled down and scrapped in 1909, and will not make it look like a fortress.

The idea is to build a "permanent and aesthetic barrier", Mr Martins said. "Unfortunately the risk of terrorism has not gone away."

Work is due to start in the autumn, but before getting the final green light the plan has to be approved by a historic sites commission and then by the environment ministry.

France has been on high terror alert for the past two years after deadly attacks in Nice and Paris, which is bidding to hold the 2024 Olympic Games, and the government has deployed thousands of troops to boost security in the main cities.

There are fears that the capital's top tourist sites may be targeted. Last September there was a failed bomb attack on Notre Dame Cathedral by female jihadists.

A week ago an Egyptian man was shot and critically wounded by soldiers when he allegedly attacked them with two machetes as he shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) in the Louvre museum complex.

Hundreds of visitors were rushed to secure rooms in the museum after the attack and were kept there for a couple of hours until the all-clear was finally given.

The Louvre closed after the attack last Friday morning, but reopened over the weekend.

The suspect has reportedly told police he identifies with the beliefs of the Isil terror group but said he did not carry out the attack on orders from the group.

France, which is preparing for a presidential election in April and May, remains under a state of emergency following the series of attacks over the past two years in which more than 230 people have been killed.

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