NOTRE-DAME Cathedral is said to have been 30 minutes away from complete destruction when it was saved by firefighters, who battled to stop the fire spreading to the belfries.
The blaze at the cathedral in Paris destroyed its spire and two-thirds of its roof, but the structure remained intact. On Tuesday it emerged that about 20 firefighters risked their lives to prevent further destruction.
Laurent Nuñez, the French junior interior minister, said: “They saved the edifice, but it all came down to 15 to 30 minutes.” Fire officials warned that if the wooden belfries has collapsed, so would the towers, threatening the whole of the cathedral’s infrastructure. Mr Nuñez said that firefighters entered “at the risk of their lives” to save the building.
Work continues to ascertain it stability, he said: “We have identified some vulnerabilities . . . notably in the vault and the north transept pinion that needs securing.”
Appearing on French television on Tuesday evening, President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the cathedral within five years. He said: “We are a people of builders. We have so much to construct, and we will rebuild the cathedral to make it even more beautiful. I want this finished in five years.”
More than €800 million has already been pledged to the restoration fund, including €200 million from L’Oréal, and €100 million from the oil giant Total.
It has also emerged that Fr Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain to the Paris fire brigade, insisted on being allowed inside the cathedral to help rescue priceless artefacts from the fire.
Philippe Goujon, mayor of the 15th arrondissement, told reporters that Fr Fournier was part of the human chain that saved treasures, such as the Crown of Thorns relic.
In a joint release on Tuesday, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York called on churches across the UK to toll their bells at 7 p.m. on Thursday as a mark of solidarity.
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