Published: Fri, April 19, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

French billionaires pledge $339 million to help rebuild Notre Dame

French billionaires pledge $339 million to help rebuild Notre Dame

Investigators still don't know how the fire started, and on Tuesday, a handful of firefighters could be seen walking through the building, inspecting the walls and surfaces carefully with flashlights.

Investigators have already questioned almost 30 people, said a Paris judicial police official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to comment on an ongoing probe.

Two police officers and a firefighter suffered light injuries tackling the fire, the Paris fire brigade tweeted Tuesday morning. One said later their efforts had saved the cathedral from "total destruction", according to CNBC. Television images showed firefighters atop the towers. "Our job today is to monitor the structure and its movements".

It is believed that the cause of the fire was related to a renovation project being carried out at the cathedral. Reminiscing about her spontaneous performance, she said she was inspired to dance in front of the monument while walking around Paris on her first night in the city.

"Today we must look at the extent of the damage", Culture Minister Franck Riester said on LCI television, adding that only then can the cost of restoration be determined.

Pledges from French billionaires, businesses and the public sector to help rebuild Notre-Dame cathedral reached some 700 million euros (790 million dollars) on Tuesday amid an outpouring of public support for one of Europe's most iconic monuments.

"The damage to Notre Dame due to fire is a loss to world heritage".

French President Emmanuel Macron said an worldwide campaign would be launched to raise funds for the rebuilding of Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Two of France's wealthiest men, Francois-Henri Pinault, chief executive of the Kering group which owns brands including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, and Bernard Arnault, the main shareholder of luxury group LVMH, said they would donate 100 million euros ($113 million) and 200 million euros respectively. Tycoons, worldwide firms, local authorities and individuals have promised financial and expert help - with a total of almost 900 million euros (780.05 million pounds) pledged by Wednesday.

The three large stained-glass rose windows, among the most famous parts of the cathedral, were not destroyed, but might have been damaged by the heat and will be assessed by an expert, he added.

New UNESCO secretary-general Audrey Azoulay, a Jewish woman from France, vowed that her United Nations cultural body "stands at France's side to save and restore this priceless heritage".

He called Notre Dame "an architectural jewel of a collective memory", and said it was "the location of many great events and a testimony to the faith and prayer of the city's Catholics".

Copper statues representing the Twelve Apostles and four evangelists were removed by crane last week as part of the renovation work.

American tourist Susan Hargrove said she'd been left breathless by the scale of devastation.

"We have the type of know-how that the whole world recognizes as being of a high quality", said Cardinal Ravasi.

Despite the longer forecasts of decades of work, the rector of Notre-Dame, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, said he was hopeful of being back behind the pulpit before he retired.

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