Update: No evidence Notre Dame fire was deliberate, says Paris prosecutor

Update: No evidence Notre Dame fire was deliberate, says Paris prosecutor

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The spire and parts of Notre Dame cathedral on fire

Update: The Paris prosecutor said there is no evidence of arson in the Notre Dame fire and that they’re working on the assumption that the blaze was an accident.

Remy Heitz says the investigation will be “long and complex.”

Firefighters work at the facade of Notre Dame cathedral today.

Speaking after the blaze was put out, he said five investigators are working on the probe.

He said they will be interviewing workers from five companies that had been hired to work on renovations to the cathedral’s roof, which was where the flames started.

Earlier: ‘Our hearts are with our brothers in France,’ says top Muslim cleric after devastating Notre Dame fire

Egypt’s top Muslim cleric has expressed sadness over the fire that destroyed part of the famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, describing it as a “historic architectural masterpiece”.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s seat of learning, wrote on Facebook: “Our hearts are with our brothers in France.”

Handout image from Pompiers de Paris showing the scene of the fire at Notre Dame cathedral.

French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault who earlier said he is pledging to donate €100m to rebuild the cathedral said it is a “symbol of spirituality and our common humanity”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the businessman said he expects others to follow suit as “it has to be a collective endeavour” to renovate the Parisian landmark, saying that “everyone with means and recourse should participate”.

He said it was a “shock” to see the building on fire last night:

“We need to rebuild collectively this part of our history, of our culture, so it’s an urgent, urgent need to move forward, so I decided to unlock a very important amount of money to do that.”

Asked if others from around the world could join him in donating money, he said: “Everyone is welcome, it goes beyond France, it’s a symbol of our culture, a symbol of spirituality and our common humanity.”

Mr Pinault said the money, which comes from his family’s personal wealth and not his retail empire Kering, comes with no strings attached or “ownership” as to how it is used to repair Notre Dame.

French politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan praised businessmen Bernard Arnault and Francois-Henri Pinault for “setting an example” by pledging millions of pounds to repair the building.

Speaking to press in front of Notre Dame, he said: “All the Parisians who have gathered on the banks have demanded an inquiry to understand what happened – is it an accident and why such an accident?

“How can all of this burn? It’s terrible – or, is it more serious?

“I think the French are asking themselves this question.”

He added: “The French want to know what happened and we have to give them the truth.”

Mr Dupont-Aignan, who founded the political party Debout la France in 1999, added: “The state will need to devote millions, and it will take decades [to repair] and when we look at the damage, it is a tragedy.

“What can we do to understand how that happened and what can we do to prevent it happening to other monuments in our country?”

He said it would be a “good thing” if the process of rebuilding Notre Dame became a means of uniting France.

Earlier: Entire Notre Dame fire ‘fully extinguished’; French billionaire pledges €200m for restoration

Paris’ deputy mayor said Notre Dame’s organ, one of the biggest and most famous in the world, remains intact after the fire.

Emmanuel Gregoire told BFMTV that a plan to protect the cathedral’s treasures had been rapidly and successfully activated.

A man kneels as people come to watch and photograph the Notre Dame cathedral after the fire.

The organ dates to the 1730s and was constructed by Francois Thierry. It boasts an estimated 8,000 pipes.

Mr Gregoire also described “enormous relief” at the salvaging of pieces such as the purported Crown of Christ.

Update: The blaze at Notre Dame cathedral is fully extinguished, Paris firefighters have confirmed.

A spokesman for Paris firefighters said that “the entire fire is out” at Notre Dame.

Gabriel Plus said emergency services are currently “surveying the movement of the structures and extinguishing smouldering residues”.

Mr Plus said that now the fire is out, “this phase is for the experts” to plan how to consolidate the edifice.

Update: The Paris Fire Service, Pompiers de Paris, said on Twitter that Notre Dame’s structure and artworks had been saved.

It said: “The structure of the cathedral is saved and the main works of art have been safeguarded, thanks to the combined action of the various state services committed to our side.”

They also reported that two police officers and one firefighter had been injured while tackling the blaze.

The fire service said: “After more than nine hours of fierce fighting, nearly 400 Paris firefighters came to grips with the terrible fire. Two police officers and one firefighter were slightly wounded.”

The relic of the crown of thorns and a number of priceless artefacts were taken from the cathedral to Paris City Hall for safekeeping.

French billionaire Bernard Arnault and his group LVMH have pledged €200m towards Notre Dame’s reconstruction.

Experts are assessing the blackened shell of Notre Dame to establish the next steps to save what remains of the structure.

French junior interior minister Laurent Nunez announced that architects and other experts would meet at the cathedral early on Tuesday “to determine if the structure is stable and if the firefighters can go inside to continue their work”.

A French cultural heritage expert said France no longer has trees big enough to replace ancient wooden beams that burned in the Notre Dame fire.

Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, told France Info radio that the wooden roof that went up in flames was built with beams more than 800 years ago from primal forests.

He said the cathedral’s roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire because “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century”.

He said the restoration work will have to use new technologies in order to rebuild the roof.

Earlier: Heartbreak for France as huge fire ravages Notre Dame Cathedral

A catastrophic fire at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral has left a nation mourning the devastation of its cultural and historic “epicentre” and sent shockwaves around the world.

Hundreds of firefighters tackled the historic blaze through the night, battling to stop it wreaking complete destruction of the treasured facade after flames torched the roof, sending its spire crashing to the ground before crowds of horrified Parisians.

Meanwhile, teams raced to recover what treasures they could from the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece, which housed priceless artefacts and relics of huge religious and international significance.

The blaze, which broke out as the last crowds of tourists ended visits at around 6pm BST (7pm local time), was finally declared to be “completely under control” nearly nine hours later.

However, it is expected to take several days to completely extinguish all remaining pockets of fire, dampen down hotspots and secure the world-famous edifice.

Attention is beginning to turn to what may have caused the landmark, part of which was being restored, to fall victim to such a disaster.

The Paris prosecutors’ office said police will carry out an investigation into “involuntary destruction caused by fire”, indicating authorities are treating the blaze as a tragic accident for now.

Arson, including possible terror-related motives, was earlier ruled out.

Visiting the scene on Monday night, French president Emmanuel Macron said a national subscription would be launched to rebuild the national monument.

It was reported by AFP that billionaire French fashion mogul Francois-Henri Pinault had pledged €100m towards the effort.

 

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