Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that he wants to see fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral rebuilt “more beautiful than before” within five years even as experts say its reconstruction could take decades and involve substantial challenges.
A massive fire on Monday ravaged the 850-year-old building, destroying much of its roof and causing its steeple to collapse. The officials say that the cathedral was minutes away from destruction.
In a televised address on Tuesday evening, Macron suggested he wants it rebuilt by the time Paris hosts the Summer Olympics in 2024. “We’ll rebuild Notre-Dame even more beautiful and I want it to be completed in five years, we can do it,” said the President, who already pledged to launch an international fundraising scheme for the reconstruction.
“It’s up to us to convert this disaster into an opportunity to come together… It’s up to us to find the thread of our national project.”
But experts say that the main problems in rebuilding the cathedral include the sourcing of materials and painstaking work to preserve elements of the church that survived the fire but might have been badly damaged by it, the Guardian reported.
Fifty people will investigate the cause of the fire. Paris public prosecutor Remy Heitz said there was no obvious indication of arson and that the blaze was being treated as an accident.
A combined 800 million euros have been pledged by a number of companies and business tycoons to help rebuild the Unesco World Heritage site.
Eric Fischer, who heads a foundation restoring the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg Cathedral that underwent a three-year facelift, said rebuilding Notre Dame could probably take several decades.
“The damage will be significant,” he said.
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of Unesco, the UN cultural organisation, said restoring Notre Dame “will last a long time and cost a lot of money”.
Experts have not yet been allowed on site to assess the damage and firefighters have sent a drone to survey the scale of the destruction, according to the BBC.
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 Nunez said the structure was in good condition “overall” but that “some vulnerabilities” had been identified in the stone vaults and the remainder of the ceiling.
The main structure, including the two bell towers, was saved in a time window of 15 to 30 minutes by a team of 400 firefighters, he said.
In his speech Macron praised the fire services, saying they took “extreme risks” to tackle the blaze.
Photos of the fire appear to show that at least one of the famed rose windows survived but there were concerns for some of the other stained-glass windows. The 18th Century organ was not burned but it was not clear whether it was damaged, reports say.