Workers questioned over Notre-Dame inferno
Issued on: Modified:
The raging fire that tore through Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday evening has been declared "under control" this Tuesday morning after the blaze brought its towering spire and roof crashing to the ground, wiping out centuries of priceless heritage central to French culture and history.
Update at 14:34. GMT: French investigators probing the devastating blaze at Notre-Dame Cathedral questioned workers who were renovating the monument on Tuesday as hundreds of millions of euros were pledged to restore the historic masterpiece.
Ongoing renovation work on the steeple, where workers were replacing its lead covering, is widely suspected to have caused the inferno after the blaze broke out in an area under scaffolding.
Investigators interviewed witnesses overnight and began speaking to the employees of five different construction companies which were working on the monument, said public prosecutor Remy Heitz.
"Nothing indicates this was a deliberate act," Heitz told reporters, adding that 50 investigators had been assigned to what he expected to be a "long and complex" case.
The architect in charge of the renovation project slated to last until 2022 said that no workers were on the site when the flames first appeared shortly before 7 pm (1700 GMT) on Monday.
Update at 13:24 GMT: Notre-Dame: the bells of cathedrals of France will ring Wednesday at 18:50 GMT as a mark of respect.
Update at 13h10 GMT: The cathedral bells across the hundeds of dioceses in France will ring out at 16h50 GMT, 6.50pm local time on Wednesday, to mark the moment the Notre-Dame fire started on Monday. The Bishops' Conference of France made the announcement today on Twitter stating, the bells will ring out in solidarity with the diocese of Paris.
Update at 12:17 GMT:The French president will speak to Pope Francis later today, the Elysée Palace has announced. Other world leaders to have called Macron this morning include UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump, who also tweeted some advice on how to tackle the fire last night.
* * *
French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the cathedral described as the soul of the nation and expressed relief via twitter last night that "the worst had been avoided" in a blaze that had at one point threatened the entire edifice.
Thousands of Parisians and tourists watched in horror from nearby streets cordoned off by the police as flames engulfed the building and officials tried to save as much as they could of the cathedral's countless treasures, built up over centuries.
This Tuesday morning, French magnate Arnault, LVMH has pledged €200million towards the restoration of Notre-Dame.
This, following a pledge from France's billionaire Pinault dynasty of €100million for the reconstruction effort.
The inferno destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old UNESCO world heritage landmark, whose Gothic spire collapsed as orange flames and clouds of smoke billowed into the evening sky.
Around 400 firefighters battled into the night to control the flames, declaring in the early hours today that it was partially extinguished but completely under control, around nine hours after it broke out.
Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said "we can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved" as well as the two bell towers.
However the whole of the roof has been devastated and a part of the vault has collapsed. The spire is no more.
Officials are due to meet this Tuesday to see if the building is stable enough to allow fire services to go inside.
The cause of the blaze is not immediately clear, but the cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work which the fire service said could be linked to the blaze.
French prosecutors say it is currently being treated as an accident.
Historians have expressed dismay at the collapse of a building that has been a symbol of France for almost a millennium.
Deputy Paris mayor Emmanuel Gregoire has told French media that workers are scrambling "to save all the artworks that can be saved."
Teams have reportedly managed to salvage an unknown quantity of the cultural treasures held within the cathedral.
'Epicentre of our life'
Meanwhile, President Macron cancelled a planned national policy speech on recent "Yellow Vest" protests and instead headed to the scene, where he vowed the cathedral would be reborn.
"We will rebuild Notre-Dame because it is what the French expect," he said, describing Notre Dame as "the epicentre of our life" and the cathedral of "all the French", whether religious or not.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Notre-Dame cathedral a "symbol of European culture" as the blaze raged.
The Vatican has expressed its "incredulity" and "sadness" over the blaze
According to the Paris Fire Brigade, one firefighter was injured in the blaze.
The injuries are not believed to be life threatening.
US President Donald Trump in a tweet said it was "horrible" to watch the fire but caused controversy by offering advice on how to put it out.
"Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!" he said.
But France's civil security service, which oversees crisis management in the country, tweeted back at Trump that the use of water-bombing aircraft was not being considered as it could have led to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral.
Paris will never be the same
Notre Dame cathedral is located at the very centre of the French capital and its construction was completed in the mid-12th century after some 200 years of work.
During the French Revolution in the 18th century, the cathedral was vandalised in widespread anti-clerical violence: its spire was dismantled, its treasures plundered and its large statues at the grand entrance doors destroyed.
It would go on to feature as a central character in a Victor Hugo novel published in 1831, "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" and shortly afterwards a restoration project lasting two decades got under way, led by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.
The building survived the devastation of two global conflicts in the 20th century and famously rang its bells on August 24, 1944, the day of the Liberation of Paris from German occupation at the end of the World War II.