Devastating Notre Dame blaze ‘likely accidental’

Devastating Notre Dame blaze ‘likely accidental’
Flames and smoke rise as the spire of Notre Dame cathedral is on fire in Paris, Monday. (AP)
Paris, Apr 16 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 4/16/2019 12:26:27 PM IST

Investigators sifting through the fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral in Paris warned of potential weaknesses in the remains of the building Tuesday, as experts warned it could take months just to identify the scale of the reconstruction task. While the building was assessed to be structurally sound overall, pictures showed gaping holes in the roof where the ancient vaulted ceiling had collapsed into the nave.

French junior interior minister Laurent Nunez said experts had identified “some vulnerabilities” in the building, particularly in the roof, much of which has been destroyed, and part of the north transept.

Some nearby residential properties were evacuated as authorities assess the scale of the damage from the blaze which engulfed the medieval landmark Monday night. Firefighters said it took more than nine hours before the flames were brought under control.

It was not immediately known what caused the fire, which began on Monday evening in the attic, according to the Paris Fire Brigade. The cathedral, and its central spire - an area where the fire was first visible to onlookers - had been surrounded by scaffolding amid construction work.

Scores of priceless artifacts were rescued from the flames, and will be taken to the Louvre museum for safekeeping. Paris prosecutors have opened an investigation, but on Tuesday Prosecutor Rémy Heitz said “nothing shows that it’s an intentional act,” and that the start of the fire was “likely accidental.” Heitz also said that the investigation, which is in its early stages, is expected to be a long process.

Lieutenant-Colonel Gabriel Plus, a spokesman for the fire brigade told CNN that internal security officers first heard the fire alarm at 6:20 p.m. local time and began to evacuate the cathedral, even though they didn’t see any sign of fire.

Twenty-three minutes later, the fire alarm rang again, Plus said. That’s when the cathedral’s security officers noticed the flames.

Firefighters were unable to save the cathedral’s 19th century spire, which burned to a blackened shell before finally toppling as thousands of Parisians who had gathered in the streets watched in horror. Two policemen and a firefighter were sustained minor injuries, the brigade said.

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the cathedral “because that is what the French expect, that is what our history merits, and this is our deep destiny.”

“Notre Dame is our history, it’s our literature, it’s our imagery. It’s the place where we live our greatest moments, from wars to pandemics to liberations,” Macron said at the scene of the fire on Monday night. “This history is ours. And it burns. It burns and I know the sadness so many of our fellow French feel.”

Pledges of funding to help the restoration work were flooding in on Tuesday, with more than $700 million in donations from French business leaders and businesses confirmed by Tuesday afternoon.

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