Paris, April 16 : The massive blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris devastated large parts of the 850-year-old church, causing the collapse of iconic spire and much of its roof during the hours it took to battle the blaze.
As many as 400 firefighters were deployed and succeeded in preventing the flames reaching the two belfry towers, particularly the north tower where the 10 cathedral bells hang – the largest of which, the Emmanuel bell, weighs 13 tonnes – crashing down and causing the collapse of both gothic towers. It took fifteen hours for Paris firefighters to extinguish fire completely.
Police is now questioning workers who were carrying out renovations at Notre Dame Cathedral shortly before a devastating fire broke out at the historic monument.
An inquiry into “involuntary destruction by fire” has been opened by the Paris prosecutor’s office as they believe the cause of the blaze was accidental rather than criminal.
French President Emmanuel Macron said, “We will rebuild this cathedral, Notre Dame of Paris is our history.”
Macron continued, emphasizing the structure’s unique place in the national imagination. “The epicenter of our lives. It’s the many books, the paintings, those that belong to all French men and French women, even those who’ve never come.”
Notre Dame has been a symbol of our national pride where the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte took place, the beatification of Joan of Arc and the funeral masses for Charles de Gaulle and Francois Mitterand. The cathedral stood up to the “grosse Bertha” artillery during the first world war and it stood defiant through the years of Nazi occupation.
Reactions from leaders across the world
Pope Francis issued a statement late on Monday expressing the Vatican’s “shock and sadness” at “the news of the terrible fire that devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”
“We express closeness to the French Catholics and the people of Paris and we assure our prayers for the firemen and those who are doing everything possible to face this dramatic situation,” the statement read.
Barack and Michelle Obama shared messages on both Twitter and Instagram, respectively, to share their personal memories of the Cathedral and say that “we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief.
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. pic.twitter.com/SpMEvv1BzB
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 15, 2019
“I do not have a strong enough word to express the pain that I feel,” tweeted Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
The immediate fundraising efforts leading to pledges of 50 million euros ($56 million) and 200 million euros ($226 million) from Paris’ City Hall and the luxury goods and fashion house LVMH, respectively.
Queen Elizabeth II sent a personal message to President Macron in which she said, “Prince Philip and I have been deeply saddened to see the images of the fire which has engulfed Notre-Dame Cathedral.”
“I extend my sincere admiration to the emergency services who have risked their lives to try to save this important national monument,” she wrote. “My thoughts and prayers are with those who worship at the Cathedral and all of France at this difficult time.”