Notre Dame – President Emmanuel Macron vows to rebuild Cathedral 'even more beautifully' in just five years as donations hit €1BILLION

FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild fire-ravaged Notre Dame "even more beautifully" in just five years.

As donations towards restoration hit €1billion (£867, 500), the politician said the blaze was a reminder that "our history never stops".



Addressing the nation on television last night, Macron said: "We will always have challenges to overcome.

"We will rebuild Notre Dame, more beautiful than before – and I want it done in the next five years.

"We can do it. After the time of testing comes a time of reflection and then of action.

"It is up to us to change this disaster into an opportunity to come together, having deeply reflected on what we have been and what we have to be and become better than we are. It is up to us to find the thread of our national project."

However, experts have warned that restoring the cathedral back to it's 850-year-old glory could take several decades.

Eric Fischer, head of the foundation in charge of restoring the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg cathedral, said: "The damage will be significant."

Frédéric Létoffé, the head of the group of companies for the Restoration of Historic Monuments, said a rebuild could take between ten and 15 years. Substantial work would be needed to secure the site before restoration can begin, he warned.

We will rebuild Notre Dame, more beautiful than before – and I want it done in the next five years

It comes as French police launched a probe into the inferno, which broke out at the Parisian landmark on Monday afternoon.

The raging flames caused the cathedral's 300ft spire to collapse and turned its Gothic roof to ashes.

It was still too early to estimate the cost of the damage, said the Fondation du Patrimoine, an independent non-profit heritage group.

Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nuñez said the structure was in good condition "overall" but warned that "some vulnerabilities" had been spotted in the stone vaults and the remainder of the ceiling.

The main structure, including the two bell towers, was saved in a time frame of 15 to 20 minutes by a team of 400 firefighters, he said.

In his speech Macron praised firefighters who took "extreme risks" to tackle the blaze.

DONATIONS FLOODING IN

Donations towards restoration of the church have flooded in, with Salma Hayek's billionaire husband pledging £86million.

Francois-Henri Pinault, the CEO of Kering, the group which owns luxury fashion brands Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, was one of the first to make a significant donation as the world mourns the loss of the prominent symbol of French heritage.

He tied the knot with Frida actress Hayek on Valentine's Day in 2009 in Paris and they have one child together.

Pinault's family is estimated to be worth around £26.8bn.

French billionaire Bernard Arnault, who is head of the LVMH group and thought to be France's richest man, also dug deep into his pockets and pledged £173m (€200m).

REBUILD 'COULD TAKE DECADES'

A statement from his family said: "The Arnault family and the LVMH group would like to show their solidarity at this time of national tragedy, and are joining up to help rebuild this extraordinary cathedral, which is a symbol of France, of its heritage and of French unity."

Arnault's family is said to be worth more than £70bn.

The Bettencourt-Meyer family, the largest shareholder in the L'Oreal cosmetics empire, offered £172m, while oil and gas producer Total pledged £87m.

The City of Paris said it would unlock £43m.

By Tuesday evening, just over 24 hours after the fire erupted, donations had exceeded £605m (€700m).

Meanwhile, public prosecutor Heitz said the fire was probably the result of an accident and there was no sign it was started deliberately.

"We are favouring the theory of an accident," he said, adding that 50 people were working on a "long" and "complex" probe.

He said they would be interviewing workers from five companies that had been hired to work on renovations to the cathedral's roof, which was where the fire is thought to have started.











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