Firefighters declared success Tuesday after battling for more than 12 hours to extinguish a fire engulfing Paris’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral. Officials consider the fire an accident, possibly as a result of restoration work.
What remained was a blackened shell of a building that had survived almost 900 years of French history.
Its iconic twin bell towers remained visibly intact. Paris officials said the world-famous 18th-century organ with 8,000 pipes also appeared to have survived, along with other treasures inside the cathedral. No one was killed, officials said, but two police officers and a firefighter were injured.
Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire described authorities’ “enormous relief” at the salvaging of pieces such as the Crown of Christ, which were transported to a “secret location” after the fire. Statues removed just days ago for restoration work were also saved.
“The task is — now the risk of fire has been put aside — about the building, how the structure will resist,” said Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez in front of the cathedral.
French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the cathedral that he called “a part of us” and appealed for help to do so.
The 12th-century church is home to relics, stained glass and other works of art and is a leading tourist attraction.
“The organ is a very fragile instrument, especially its pipes. It has not burned, but no one can tell whether it has been damaged by water. Nobody knows if it is a functioning state or will need to be restored,” Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, told the Associated Press.
Repairing the cathedral — including the 800-year-old wooden beams that made up its roof — presents challenges.
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,” de Feydeau said, adding that the roof restoration work would have to use new technologies.