You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Notre Dame assessed for structural damage after fire extinguished

The Guardian logo The Guardian 16/04/2019 Kim Willsher in Paris
Replay Video

Police and fire services will spend the next 48 hours assessing the “security and safety” of Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire at the historic monument in the centre of Paris on Monday evening.

Laurent Nuñez, a junior interior minister, said on Tuesday that the primary concern of French authorities now was identifying weaknesses in the centuries-old structure.

“We have identified some vulnerabilities in the structure … notably in the vault and the north transept pinion that needs securing,” Nuñez said. He said this work would take 48 hours and residents of five buildings around the north transept were being evacuated.

Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier © Catalyst Images Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier Architects have identified three main holes in the structure, in the locations of the spire, the transept and the vault of the north transept. Most of the wooden roof beams have been burned, and parts of the concrete vaulting holding up the roof have collapsed.

Fifteen hours after the fire broke out, Paris firefighters said it had been fully extinguished. Nuñez praised the actions of the Paris fire service, who he said had battled “not just outside but inside the building at great risk to their own lives”. 

Paris Fire brigade members spray water to extinguish flames as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019.   REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer © Catalyst Images Paris Fire brigade members spray water to extinguish flames as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer Nuñez said 500 firefighters attended the scene after the fire broke out, and they were replaced by another 500 around midnight.

The culture minister, Franck Riester, said religious relics saved from the cathedral, including the Crown of Thorns and Saint Louis’s tunic, were being held in security at the Hôtel de Ville, and works of art that sustained smoke damage were being taken to the Louvre where they would be dried out, restored and stored.

French President Emmanuel Macron walks near the Notre Dame Cathedral as its burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019.   REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer © Catalyst Images French President Emmanuel Macron walks near the Notre Dame Cathedral as its burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer He said three stained-glass “rose” windows did not appear to be damaged but would be examined more closely when the cathedral was made safe. Photos from inside the monument suggest Notre Dame’s grand organ, built in the 1730s and boasting 8,000 pipes, was spared from the flames.

Sixteen copper statues that decorated the spire, representing the 12 apostles and four evangelists, had been removed for restoration only a few days before the fire. Relics at the top of the spireare believed lost as the spire was destroyed.

Police have begun questioning workers who were carrying out renovations at the cathedral. The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an inquiry into “involuntary destruction by fire”, indicating they believe the cause of the blaze was accidental rather than criminal.

A firefighter works at Notre-Dame Cathedral after a massive fire devastated large parts of the gothic gem in Paris, France, April 16, 2019.  REUTERS/Benoit Tessier © Catalyst Images A firefighter works at Notre-Dame Cathedral after a massive fire devastated large parts of the gothic gem in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier Julien Le Bras, from the scaffolding company involved in the renovation, said his company had worked on a number of historic buildings in France, including the Louvre, and none of his workers were at the site when the fire broke out.

“It is with unqualified sadness I am speaking,” he told a press conference. “The police investigation is taking place and our workers will help answer questions with no reserve whatsoever to throw light on the cause of this drama. At the moment the fire started, none of the workers of my company was present at the site. All security and fire requirements were respected.”

Replay Video

Firefighters prevented the flames from reaching the two belfry towers, particularly the north tower where the cathedral bells hang. If the wooden frame of the north tower had caught fire it could have sent the 10 bells – the largest of which, the Emmanuel bell, weighs 13 tonnes – crashing down, potentially causing the collapse of both gothic towers. “They saved the edifice but it all came down to 15-30 minutes,” Nuñez said.

Gabriel Plus, a spokesman for the Paris fire service, said: “Throughout the night our work consisted of keeping an eye on the residue so the fire didn’t reignite and overseeing the structure of the building to make sure it didn’t collapse. We had to ensure the towers were not touched and this is the case.

A view shows the statues around the spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, January 14, 2016. Picture taken January 14, 2016.   REUTERS/Charles Platiau © Catalyst Images A view shows the statues around the spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, January 14, 2016. Picture taken January 14, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau “We are satisfied and grateful that in risking their lives [firefighters] safeguarded the structure of the two belfries, the towers – and the works of art. Now I can confirm the fire is completely out.”

The fire broke out at about 6.45pm local time at the base of the 93-metre spire, which was constructed of wood and lead in the 19th century. The flames quickly spread to the cathedral’s ribbed roof, made up of hundreds of oak beams, some dating back to the 13th century and measuring up to 110 metres long, and known as “la forêt” (the forest).

As well as damage from the heat, which firefighters said reached more than 800C, experts also need to assess damage from the vast quantities of water that the firefighters poured into the cathedral.

Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
© Catalyst Images

Monseigneur Michel Aupetit, the archbishop of Paris, said there was global love for “this extraordinary cathedral”. “When we arrived yesterday evening we wanted to cry and people were crying around us,” he said. “Notre Dame is a symbol, more than a symbol it is the soul of France.”

He told BFMTV: “Notre Dame de Paris on the Île de la Cité , [in the] centre of Paris, is charged with history, with events through the centuries. It draws people, they come to look and they respect the place and they come to pray.”

Flames burning inside Notre Dame. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters © Reuters Flames burning inside Notre Dame. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who was at the scene on Monday evening, said a fundraising campaign would be launched immediately, as well as an appeal to international experts to help rebuild Notre Dame.

Two of France’s richest tycoons pledged millions to the fund. It was announced that €100m had been pledged from the family fortune of François Pinault, the founder of Kering, which owns fashion labels including Alexander McQueen and Gucci. Shortly afterwards, Bernard Arnault, the owner of the LVMH group, declared he would donate €200m.

People watch 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) © Catalyst Images People watch 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) The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, called for a “donors’ conference”, not only to raise money for the reconstruction but to involve experts from around the world.

The UN’s Paris-based cultural agency Unesco promised to stand “at France’s side” to restore the site, which it declared a world heritage site in 1991.

“We are already in contact with experts and ready to dispatch an urgent mission to evaluate the damage, save what can be saved and start elaborating measures for the short and medium term,” Unesco’s secretary general, Audrey Azoulay, said on Tuesday.

NOW READ:

FAI Board have told Sports Minister Shane Ross they will be stepping down (Independent.ie)

First look inside ravaged Notre Dame (Daily Mail)

Motorists accused of dodging M50 tolls handed fines totalling €100,000 (Dublin Live)

All the Irish candidates running in the European Parliament elections (The Journal)

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From The Guardian

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon