Tuesday 17 September 2019

Notre Dame fire: 'now fully extinguished' blaze was probably accidental, French prosecutors say

  • Cathedral's structure can be saved - fire chief
  • Fund raising drive launched after roof and spire collapse
  • Pictures emerge of the damage inside the landmark
Man makes a drawing of the Notre Dame cathedral after the fire in Paris. Experts are assessing the blackened shell of Paris' iconic Notre Dame cathedral to establish next steps. Photo: AP Photo/Christophe Ena
Man makes a drawing of the Notre Dame cathedral after the fire in Paris. Experts are assessing the blackened shell of Paris' iconic Notre Dame cathedral to establish next steps. Photo: AP Photo/Christophe Ena
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris following a fire which destroyed much of the building on Monday Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
A woman prays next to Notre Dame Cathedral after it suffered heavy damage from a fire. Photo: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Horror: A woman reacts as she watches flames engulf the roof of the Notre-Dame cathedral. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Flames illuminate the night sky as Notre Dame cathedral burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Devastated: Flames engulf the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Smoke ascends as flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
People pray as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Firefighters tackle the blaze as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Firefighters use hoses as Notre Dame cathedral burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Firefighters tackle the blaze as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
The cathedral is on an island in the Seine. Photo: REUTERS
Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Bystanders look on as flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Paris Fire brigade members are seen at an entrance that shows a cross inside the Notre Dame Cathedral as a fire continues to burn in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
A fire fighter uses a hose as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A still image taken from a video shows flames at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS TV/via REUTERS
Most Gothic of churches: Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris as it looked before renovation work started and a fire took hold. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Devastated: Faithful pray as they watch Notre-Dame Cathedral destroyed by fire. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris following a fire which destroyed much of the building on Monday evening Photo credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Matthias Blamont and Inti Landauro

THE fire that tore through Notre-Dame cathedral was probably caused by accident, French prosecutors said on Tuesday after firefighters doused the last flames in the ruins overnight.

More than 400 firemen were needed to tame the inferno that consumed the roof and collapsed the spire of the eight-centuries-old cathedral. They worked through the night to bring the fire under control some 14 hours after it began.

Flames that began in the early evening burst rapidly through the roof of the centuries-old Notre-Dame cathedral and engulfed the spire, which collapsed, quickly followed by the entire roof.
Flames that began in the early evening burst rapidly through the roof of the centuries-old Notre-Dame cathedral and engulfed the spire, which collapsed, quickly followed by the entire roof.

"We are favouring the theory of an accident," Paris public prosecutor Remy Heitz said, adding that 50 people were working on what was expected to be a long and complex investigation.

One firefighters was injured; no one else was reported hurt in the blaze which began after the building was closed to the public for the evening.

From the outside, the imposing bell towers and outer walls, with their vast flying buttresses, still stood firm, but the insides and the upper structure were eviscerated by the blaze.

Investigators will not be able to enter the cathedral's blackened nave until experts are satisfied its stone walls withstood the heat and the building is structurally sound. Television images showed firefighters atop the towers.

"The fire is fully extinguished," fire service spokesman Gabriel Plus told reporters. "Our job today is to monitor the structure and its movements."

The fire swiftly ripped through the cathedral's timbered roof supports, where workmen had been carrying out extensive renovations to collapsed balustrades and crumbling gargoyles, as well as the spire's wooden frame.

Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into "involuntary destruction by fire". Police on Tuesday began questioning the workers involved in the restoration, the prosecutor's office said.

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

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

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

MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR DONATIONS

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

Devastated: Flames engulf the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Devastated: Flames engulf the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Notre-Dame is owned by the state and has been at the centre of a years-long row between the nation and the Paris archdiocese over who should bear the brunt of costs for badly needed restoration work.

It was too early to estimate the cost of the damage, said Bertrand de Feydeau of the Fondation du Patrimoine, a charity which works to protect French heritage, but it is likely to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

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. The city of Paris pledged 50 million euros.

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

Paolo Violini, a restoration specialist for Vatican museums, said the pace at which the fire spread through the cathedral had been stunning.

A fire fighter uses a hose as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A fire fighter uses a hose as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

"We are used to thinking about them as eternal simply because they have been there for centuries, or a thousand years, but the reality is they are very fragile," Violini said.

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 restoration 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."

Reuters

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