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Notre Dame fire: French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault donates €100 million to rebuild cathedral as firefighters bring huge blaze under control

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 16/04/2019 Bonnie Christian
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Millions have been donated to rebuild the Notre Dame as a huge blaze destroyed parts of the centuries-old cathedral.

A fire chief in Paris confirmed the structure had been saved as a fire engulfed the 12th century landmark, causing its main spire and roof to collapse.

It was confirmed the blaze was under control just after 3am local time on Tuesday by up to 400 firefighters.

As fire crews were inside with cathedral workers trying to rescue treasures, others fought the inferno from outside. One fireman was seriously hurt, officials confirmed.

Crews halt spread of fire after massive blaze engulfs Notre Dame
a view of a city at night: Flames and smoke rise as the spire of Notre Dame cathedral collapses in Paris. (AP) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Flames and smoke rise as the spire of Notre Dame cathedral collapses in Paris. (AP)

President Emmanuel Macron declared a national emergency as he addressed crowds on Monday evening outside Notre Dame.

He vowed to rebuild the historic landmark as French billionaires pledged tens of millions of euros to restore the cathedral.

The site is home to numerous paintings, sculptures and statues, a medieval organ and the stained-glass Rose Windows, which date back to the 13th century.

The relic of the crown of thorns and a number of priceless artefacts were taken from the cathedral to Paris City Hall for safekeeping, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo confirmed on Twitter.

"The crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place," she said.

Mr Macron said he would be looking "beyond our borders" as a fundraising campaign got under way to restore the building.

In an emotional speech on Monday night, he said: "I am solemnly telling you tonight: this cathedral will be rebuilt by all of us together."

a stop sign lit up at night: An image taken from a television screen shows an aerial view of the Notre-Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames. (AFP/Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited An image taken from a television screen shows an aerial view of the Notre-Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames. (AFP/Getty Images)

Describing Notre Dame as "our history" and "the epicentre of our lives", he added: "It's probably part of France's destiny and it will be our project for the years to come."

Francois-Henri Pinault, who is married to actress Salma Hayek, is quoted in the French media as saying he and his father, Francois, had decided to donate the money to help with the "complete reconstruction" of Notre Dame.

The younger Mr Pinault is chief executive of international luxury group Kering, which owns brands such as Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, and is the president of French holding company Groupe Artemis, which owns the Christie's auction house.

Meanwhile, France's Fondation du Patrimoine, a private organisation which works to protect French heritage, said it would be starting an international appeal.

It tweeted: "For our Lady to be reborn from her ashes we are launching an international appeal. All donations received will be paid in full to the restoration site."

Across the pond, the US-based French Heritage Society said it would be establishing a restoration fund, while several appeals have already been set up on crowdfunding sites such as Go Fund Me and Just Giving.

a group of people in a dark room: French firemen enter the Notre-Dame Cathedral as flames are burning the roof cathedral. (EPA) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited French firemen enter the Notre-Dame Cathedral as flames are burning the roof cathedral. (EPA)

Concerns over the scale of the damage to Notre Dame came as expressions of grief were sent to Paris from around the world.

Prime Minister Theresa May sent her wishes to the French capital from her walking holiday with her husband in Wales, where she is spending the beginning of parliamentary recess.

"My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre Dame cathedral," she said.

Donald Trump Notre Dame blaze a terrible sight to behold

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump tweeted some advice for the Paris Fire Brigade, suggesting "flying water tankers" to put out the flames.

Former US President Barack Obama tweeted: “Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury said he was praying for "everyone in France and beyond who watches and weeps".

He tweeted: "Tonight we pray for the firefighters tackling the tragic NotreDame fire - and for everyone in France and beyond who watches and weeps for this beautiful, sacred place where millions have met with Jesus Christ."

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker described the fire as a "horror".

In a press release written in French, Mr Juncker said: "I am minute by minute the fire of which Notre-Dame de Paris is the prey.

"Our Lady of Paris belongs to the whole of mankind. What a sad spectacle. What a horror.

"I share the emotion of the French nation which is also ours."

The fire began on Monday evening, with first reports emerging of smoke in the cathedral shortly before 6pm.

The last visitors of the day were evacuated and the Paris Fire Brigade began to fight flames which had emerged from the cathedral's roof.

a view of a city with smoke and fire: Smoke billows as flames burn through the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. (AFP/Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Smoke billows as flames burn through the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. (AFP/Getty Images)

A French official said that while the source of the fire was unknown, it could be linked to renovation works to fix Notre Dame's historic stone walls and buttresses.

The fire first brought down the cathedral's 315ft (96m) spire, and has spread to one of its two towers, which form its famed frontage.

Flames could be seen bursting through the roof as smoke billows over the iconic site which attracts millions of tourists every year.

a view of a city at night: Flames are doused through the scaffolding erected on the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. (AFP/Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Flames are doused through the scaffolding erected on the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. (AFP/Getty Images)

Notre Dame is one of the city's oldest and most recognisable buildings, and work began on it in 1163.

The original structure was completed nearly 200 years later, in 1345, and its name literally translates to "Our Lady of Paris".

Some 13 million people now visit the Catholic landmark every year - more than 30,000 every day on average - according to its official website, and it is believed to be the most visited structure in the French capital.

Its renovation works were estimated to cost around 150 million euro (£130 million).

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