France's Macron vows to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral within 5 years

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Notre Dame – investigations begin

The French president has announced a funding campaign to rebuild Notre Dame after it was partially gutted in a fire. A crane and a delivery of timber have already arrived, with a view to starting the restoration quickly.

French President Emmanuel Macron committed on Tuesday to rebuilding Notre Dame Cathedral within five years after the Paris landmark was partially gutted in a devastating fire.

Architecture | 18.04.2019

"We will rebuild Notre Dame even more beautifully and I want it to be completed in five years, we can do it," Macron said in a television address to the nation.

Read more: Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral devastated by massive fire

Describing Notre Dame as "the epicenter of our life," Macron had earlier announced that a fundraising campaign would begin Tuesday and called on the world's "greatest talents" to help rebuild the cathedral.

Building teams brought a large crane and planks of wood onto the site on Wednesday morning, with plans already in place to begin the reconstruction effort.

A section of the vault collapsed into the interior after the roof and spire were completely destroyed in the fire

French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, who is married to actress Salma Hayek, immediately pledged €100 million ($113 million) towards "the effort necessary to completely rebuild Notre Dame."

The CEO of the Kering group, which owns the Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent fashion houses, said the money would be paid by the Pinault family's investment firm, Artemis.

Later on Tuesday, a second French billionaire, Bernard Arnault of Christian Dior SE and the sprawling luxury goods empire LVMH, promised €200 million ($226 million) to the reconstruction efforts. That was followed by a €100-million pledge from French oil company Total.

Read moreNotre Dame Cathedral: A symbol of France

Germany offers help

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas offered Berlin's support, saying the fire "struck at the heart of all of Europe."

"We offer France the assistance it desires," said Maas. "Specialists in Germany and France are already working together. All of Europe is with France today."

Peter Füssenich, the architect who led restoration work at Cologne's Dom Cathedral, said that "just by seeing the images on TV, you know that it will not just take years to deal with the damage, but that it's going to take decades."

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames

Landmark throughout the ages

A photo from 1880 shows Notre Dame towering over central Paris. Until the Eiffel Tower was unveiled for the 1889 World's Fair, Notre Dame was the tallest structure in the French capital.

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames

From on high

Statues overlooking the cathedral's roof, which was almost entirely destroyed in the blaze.

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames

Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame

Quasimodo, the fictional character and main protagonist in Victor Hugo's 1831 novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," made the world-renowned cathedral even more famous. The book was made into numerous films. Here, Quasimodo is seen ringing the church bells in the 1956 French-Italian version directed by Jean Delannoy.

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames

Fire services rush to scene

Security forces sealed off the area around the cathedral as some 400 firefighters used powerful hoses in an effort to bring the flames under control. The cathedral was undergoing restoration works when the fire started. Investigators are treating the cause of the fire as an accident, ruling out arson or terrorism.

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames

Spire's dramatic collapse

The fire caused the spire to come crashing down and the wooden roof support structures to go up in flames. The cathedral building had fallen into ruin after years of neglect following the French Revolution, but was saved thanks to a vast restoration campaign that began in the 19th century.

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames

Engulfed in flames

The blaze burned for nearly eight hours before it was contained.

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames

Second tower and belfry at risk

Firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to Notre Dame's two towers and belfry. Officials said after several hours of intense operations that the basic structure had been "saved and preserved."

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames

Parisians shocked

People in Paris looked on in horror, prayed and sung hymns as fire took hold of more and more of the cathedral. "Paris is disfigured, the city will never be like it was before," one man (not pictured) told French news agency AFP. "It's a tragedy," he added. "If you pray, now is the time to pray."

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames

Racing to save priceless art and artifacts

The responders fought to save the artwork at the back of the famous cathedral. Many priceless artworks and cultural relics were taken out before being burned. Last week, by chance, workers had removed 16 copper statues for cleaning for the first time in over a century.

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames

Gutted interior

An aerial view shows firefighters battling the raging fire. A part of the vault collapsed and only a part of the interior was destroyed.

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral up in flames

Altar intact

In the early morning hours, the first images of the interior emerged. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and French President Emmanuel Macron entered the building. Hidalgo said "there is no roof anymore, there's none of that left" — but that the interior was in much better condition than she and others had expected.

Long probe

Speaking outside the cathedral, Macron said the "the worst had been avoided" after firefighters managed to contain the fire following a collapse of the spire and the wooden roof structure went up in flames. Miraculously, only a small part of the vault appeared to have collapsed into the interior and firefighters were able to save valuable relics and pieces of art.

Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said the main structure of Notre Dame had been saved and preserved, as well as the two rectangular towers at its facade. The fire service said the blaze had been fully extinguished on Tuesday morning.

Paris public prosecutor Remy Heitz on Tuesday said that an investigation into the causes would be "long and complex."

Laurent Nunez, state secretary in the Interior Ministry told French broadcaster BFM TV that the next step would be assessing how well the core structure had fared in the blaze and establishing if the building was stable. A group of architects and experts will be convened to decide how best to proceed.

Read moreWorld reacts with shock to Notre Dame fire

amp,cw,es/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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