Worst is over, we will rebuild, Macron vows after Notre Dame gutted by blaze
search

Worst is over, we will rebuild, Macron vows after Notre Dame gutted by blaze

Firefighters manage to tamp down flames before main structure of 850-year-old church engulfed; international fundraising drive to rehabilitate building to begin Tuesday

  • Smoke rises in front of the altar cross at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019, after a fire engulfed the building. (PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP)
    Smoke rises in front of the altar cross at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019, after a fire engulfed the building. (PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP)
  • An image taken from a television screen shows an aerial view of the Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris. (AFP)
    An image taken from a television screen shows an aerial view of the Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris. (AFP)
  • Firefighters gather at the facade of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral as flames engulf the roof of the cathedral on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris. (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)
    Firefighters gather at the facade of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral as flames engulf the roof of the cathedral on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris. (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)
  • French President Emmanuel Macron (C) is accompanied by Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo (3L), French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (L) French Culture Minister Franck Riester (2L) and Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit as he speaks at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019, after a fire engulfed the building. (PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP)
    French President Emmanuel Macron (C) is accompanied by Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo (3L), French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (L) French Culture Minister Franck Riester (2L) and Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit as he speaks at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019, after a fire engulfed the building. (PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP)
  • Flames and smoke rise from the interior of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019, after a fire engulfed the building. (PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP)
    Flames and smoke rise from the interior of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019, after a fire engulfed the building. (PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP)
  • People watch as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP/Michel Euler)
    People watch as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP/Michel Euler)
  • Crowds look on as flames and smoke billow from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. (ERIC FEFERBERG / AFP)
    Crowds look on as flames and smoke billow from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. (ERIC FEFERBERG / AFP)
  • Bystanders look on as flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. (ERIC FEFERBERG / AFP)
    Bystanders look on as flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. (ERIC FEFERBERG / AFP)
  • Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral, as it burns in Paris, on April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
    Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral, as it burns in Paris, on April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
  • Smoke and flames rise during a fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Hubert Hitier/AFP)
    Smoke and flames rise during a fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Hubert Hitier/AFP)
  • The spire of the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral collapses as the church is engulfed in flames in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP)
    The spire of the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral collapses as the church is engulfed in flames in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP)
  • Seen from the Belleville Park, smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Aurore MESENGE / AFP)
    Seen from the Belleville Park, smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Aurore MESENGE / AFP)

PARIS, France — An emotional French President Emmanuel Macron vowed on Monday to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral, as firefighters said a fire that ravaged the building throughout the day gad been brought under control, with the main structure preserved.

“We will rebuild Notre Dame together,” Macron said as he visited the famed Paris site.

With tears in his eyes, Macron said that “the worst has been avoided” thanks to the work of firefighters who battled for hours to save the Gothic cathedral’s two towers and facade.

Macron made his statement minutes after the French capital’s fire chief announced the emergency response had changed into a monitoring and mop-up operation.

“The worst was avoided even if the battle has not been completely won yet and the next few hours will be difficult,” the French president, 41, said.

French President Emmanuel Macron (C) is accompanied by Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo (3L), French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (L) French Culture Minister Franck Riester (2L) and Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit as he speaks at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019, after a fire engulfed the building. (PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP)

The fire destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old UNESCO world heritage landmark, whose spectacular Gothic spire collapsed before the eyes of horrified onlookers on a previously pristine early spring evening.

As darkness fell, some 400 firefighters then battled to control the fire and save at least its iconic front towers. They finally gained the upper hand as midnight approached.

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 towers.

Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez, also present at the scene, said that for the first time “the fire had decreased in intensity” while still urging “extreme caution.”

Macron said a national fundraising campaign to restore Notre Dame would be launched Tuesday and he called on the world’s “greatest talents” to help.

“We will rebuild Notre Dame because it is what the French expect,” he said, flanked by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit.

The French leader credited the “courage” and “great professionalism” of firefighters with sparing Notre Dame’s facade and two landmark towers from being destroyed.

“What happened tonight in Paris and at Notre Dame Cathedral is a terrible tragedy,” Macron said.

The president described the monument at the heart of Paris as “the epicenter of our life” and the cathedral of “all the French,” whether religious or not.

Bystanders look on as flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. (ERIC FEFERBERG / AFP)

The fire, which came as Catholics prepare to celebrate Easter, sent orange flames and clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky as stunned Parisians and tourists watched on in horror.

Some were in tears, others offered prayers from the banks of the river Seine as the inferno devoured the cathedral.

“This is really sad —- the saddest thing I’ve ever stood and watched in my life,” said British tourist Sam Ogden, a 50-year-old onlooker, who had come to visit the cathedral with her family.

Gasps and cries of “Oh my god” erupted around an hour after the fire first broke out when the top portion of the church’s spire came crashing down.

The spire of the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral collapses as the cathedral is engulfed in flames in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

‘France is Notre Dame’

The cause of the blaze was not immediately confirmed. The cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work which the fire service said could be linked to the blaze.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately confirmed. The cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work which the fire service said could be linked to the blaze.

French prosecutors said the blaze was being treated as an “involuntary” fire, indicating that foul play was ruled out for now.

The religious statue representing St. Andrew perched atop Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral descends to earth for the first time in over a century as part of a restoration, in Paris Thursday, April 11, 2019. (AP/Francois Mori)

Last week, dramatic footage had shown workers removing 16 copper statues from the spire which was undergoing a revamp financed by the state and private donors.

Historians expressed incredulity at the collapse of a building that has been a symbol of France for almost a millennium and withstood war and revolution.

“If Paris is the Eiffel Tower then France is Notre Dame. It’s the entire culture, entire history of France incarnated in this monument,” Bernard Lecompte, a writer and specialist in religious history told BFM TV.

Smoke and flames rise following the collapse of the roof and steeple during a fire at the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

Deputy Paris mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told the channel that workers were scrambling “to save all the artworks that can be saved.”

A spokesman for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze.

A fire fighter uses a hose as Notre Dame cathedral is burning in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP /Francois Mori)

“Everything is burning,” the spokesman, Andre Finot, told AFP.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he felt a “sadness beyond words” but added the fire services “were still fighting… heroically, to save what can be saved.”

In a first official Israeli reaction, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said on Twitter it was “heartbreaking to see this icon of France and world civilization in flames.”

President Reuven Rivlin and acting Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz also expressed solidarity with France over the blaze.

“On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to express my deepest solidarity with France and the French nation over the terrible fire at Notre Dame, a world symbol of civilization,” Katz said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Notre-Dame cathedral a “symbol of European culture” as the blaze raged.

The Vatican on Monday expressed its “incredulity” and “sadness”, expressing ” our closeness with French Catholics and with the Parisian population.”

‘Water bombers not used’

There was no immediate indication of any casualties in the blaze.

“The Paris fire service is trying to control the flames,” Paris’s Mayor Anne Hidalgo wrote on Twitter, asking residents to respect the security cordon around the site.

US President Donald Trump in a tweet said: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”

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.

“If used, (this) could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral,” it said.

Nunez later defended the fact that water-bombing planes had not been used, as urged in a tweet notably by US President Donald Trump, saying that such action would have posed a “major danger” for the structure.

‘Will never be the same’

Hundreds of people gathered on the bridges of Paris downriver to witness the scene, many filming the images with their smartphones.

The cathedral was located at the center of the French capital in the Middle Ages 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 vandalized in widespread anti-Catholic violence: its spire was dismantled, its treasures plundered and its large statues at the grand entrance doors destroyed.

Jacques-Louis David’s painting of Joséphine kneeling before Napoleon during his coronation at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral. Behind Napoleon sits pope Pius VII. (Wikipedia/public domain)

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 underway, led by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

People watch as flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP/Michel Euler)

It would survive the devastation of two world 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.

“Paris is disfigured. The city will never be like it was before,” said Philippe, a communications worker in his mid-30s, who had biked over to the scene after being alerted of the fire by a friend.

“It’s a tragedy,” he added. “If you pray, now is the time to pray.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

read more:
less
comments
more