Notre Dame fire: What we know
- A major fire erupted at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday.
- The cause of the blaze remains unclear, but officials do not suspect terrorism or arson.
- About 40 people have been questioned by investigators.
- So far, about a billion dollars have been pledged to help restore the landmark.
Construction workers hurriedly secured key sections of the fire-weakened Notre Dame Cathedral Thursday, including an area above one of its famed rose-shaped windows. Fire officials warned that the massive cathedral still remains very fragile and extremely dangerous for construction workers and other specialists.
Workers were using a crane to remove some statues to lessen the weight on the cathedral’s fragile gables, or support walls, and to keep them from falling, since the section lacked the support of the massive timber roof that burned up in Monday evening’s devastating blaze. They were also securing the support structure above one of Notre Dame’s rose windows with wooden planks.
The island in the Seine River housing Notre Dame at the heart of the French capital remained largely empty Thursday and closed to everyone but residents. Businesses were shuttered and the usual tourist throngs were nowhere to be seen.
The lack of tourists was a significant concern for neighborhood merchants. A large swath of the Ile de la Cite is currently inaccessible, with numerous bridges linking it with mainland Paris closed.
Short-circuit most likely caused fire, official tells AP
A French judicial police official told the Associated Press investigators think an electrical short-circuit most likely caused the fire. The official, who spoke anonymously about the ongoing investigation, said investigators still don’t have the green light to work in the cathedral and search in the rubble for safety reasons.
Dozens investigating cause of massive Notre Dame fire
About 50 investigators are involved with the probe, and some 40 people, including those involved in the cathedral’s restoration work before the fire, had been questioned by Thursday, according the Paris prosecutor’s office.
French newspaper Le Parisien reported that a fire alarm went off at Notre Dame shortly after 6 p.m. Monday but a computer bug showed the fire’s location in the wrong place. The paper reported the flames may have started at the bottom of the cathedral’s giant spire and may have been caused by an electrical problem in an elevator.
Officials had said a fire alarm was triggered at 6:20 p.m., but no fire was discovered. Then, at 6:43 p.m., another alarm sounded.
At that point, fire spread quickly from the roof near the rear of Notre Dame. In less than an hour, it engulfed the spire, which — just 13 minutes later — collapsed as onlookers watched in horror.
Photos show damage to Notre Dame
Notre Dame stands damaged but defiant after the fire that raged for at least 12 hours. Inside, where the spire collapsed, the altar was buried in debris, but its cross was almost shining, and pews were still in place, CBS News correspondent Roxana Saberi reports.
Paris’ City Hall released pictures of the inside of the 850-year-old church Wednesday, showing the soot-filled sanctuary covered in debris. The roof, with its 800-year-old wooden beams, is gone.
Light shined through gaping holes in the intricately carved vaulted ceiling. Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of the preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, told the AP that the roof’s wooden beams cannot be remade because “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century.”
Even though the flames swept over the cathedral so intensely, much of the interior was saved, CBS News correspondent Ian Lee reports. Notre Dame’s two medieval bell towers were still intact, and its stained-glass rose windows appeared mostly unscathed.
Officials said it will be at least another day before scaffolding from the earlier restoration work is stabilized so the rubble can start to be cleared away.
“She was so beautiful, and now the sky is sad”
Bells tolled at cathedrals across the French capital Wednesday exactly 48 hours after the fire began. Cecile Deleville can hardly look at the destruction — she has worshipped there for 44 years.
“She was so beautiful, and now the sky is sad,” she said. “This is such a shock to me.”
Notre Dame was undergoing major renovations
The fire may potentially involve renovation work that was being carried out at the cathedral, Paris’ fire service said. Extensive scaffolding covered a portion of the roof as part of the $6.8 million project before the fire broke out.
Hundreds of millions raised for restoration
Deep-pocketed wine lovers in London raised nearly a million dollars Wednesday morning for the rebuilding of Notre Dame. Sotheby’s auctioned off 25 five-bottle cases from one of the world’s most prestigious wine producers, Château Mouton Rothschild.
The sales were originally meant to raise money for the restoration of the Palace of Versailles, France’s opulent former royal residence. About a billion dollars have been promised to help restore Notre Dame.
Scammers targeting Notre Dame donors
Global scam artists are already preying on donors. Security experts and nonprofits alike are issuing warnings for crooks seeking to capitalize on the fire.
“These kinds of scams are proliferating globally,” Alan Brill, a cyber risk expert at Kroll, a global consulting firm, told CBS’ MoneyWatch. “And the thing that’s so depressing is the scammers are so good at taking advantage of tragedy that they have a playbook.”
The French Ministry of Culture has identified four reputable organizations that have launched fundraisers for the cathedral’s reconstruction, including la Fondation du Patrimoine, la Fondation de France, la Fondation Notre-Dame, and le Centre des monuments nationaux.
Bookstore owners urge “Hunchback of Notre-Dame” publishers to donate
Two bookstore owners are calling on publishers of Victor Hugo’s iconic book “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” to join the funding campaign, according to BBC News.
BBC News said Amandine Ardouin and Antoine Bonnet, whose bookshops are based in Paris, are asking other sellers and publishers to do their part.
A share of their income from sales of Hugo’s novel, first published in 1831, will be pledged to the restoration project, they told French media.
Notre Dame Cathedral’s history
Construction of Notre Dame began in 1163 during the reign of King Louis VII and was completed in 1345. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a worldwide Parisian icon and the location of some of the most important moments in the history of France.
Henry VI of England was crowned inside the cathedral in 1431 and Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned emperor of France inside the cathedral in 1804.
The cathedral receives nearly 13 million visitors a year and is home to exquisite religious artifacts, paintings, sculptures and other priceless works of art.
It had been undergoing renovations after cracks began to appear in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable. CBS News’ Roxana Saberi reported in March 2018 that years of rain, snow and pollution had eroded the flying buttresses that prop the cathedral up.
James Shepherd, director of preservation and facilities at the Washington National Cathedral, spoke with CBSN on Monday about Notre Dame’s epic history.
“That’s 800 years of history, of people pilgrimaging there and worshiping there, and the accumulation of culture,” Shepherd said by phone. “All of that will have to be taken into consideration as they try to repair this church and save it after this devastating fire.”
Shepherd spoke of Notre Dame’s “stunning and exclusive stained-glass windows,” which the cathedral’s heritage director said Tuesday don’t appear to have been destroyed in the fire. Shepherd called them “absolutely priceless and some of the best examples of European stained-glass windows.”