Our hearts are with our French brothers over Notre Dame fire: Grand Imam of Al-Azhar

French police have yet to identify the reason of the fire. (AFP)
Updated 16 April 2019

Our hearts are with our French brothers over Notre Dame fire: Grand Imam of Al-Azhar

  • The Grand Imam tweeted in three different languages
  • French President pledged to rebuild the cathedral

DUBAI: Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Egypt’s leading Islamic institute, has expressed sadness over the fire that devastated large parts of the historic Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.
“I feel so sorry for the massive fire at the historical architectural masterpiece ‘Notre-Dame Cathedral’ in Paris, our hearts go out to our brothers in France, they deserve our full support,” in a tweet.

Al-Tayeb also tweeted the same message in Arabic and French.

The fire is suspected to have started in the 850-year-old cathedral’s attic, where restoration works are being done.

The French fire brigade have yet to officially confirm the cause of the massive blaze, which destroyed the famous tourist attraction’s iconic spire and oak wood roof.

Firefighters managed finally to control of fire during the early hours of Tuesday.

The French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking from the scene, described the blaze as a “terrible tragedy” although the “worst had been avoided,” and promised Parisians that they will “rebuild this cathedral together.”

“Let’s be proud, because we built this cathedral more than 800 years ago, we’ve built it and, throughout the centuries, let it grow and improved it. So, I solemnly say tonight: we will rebuild it together,” Macron told reporters.

The sense of shock at the damage was palpable and also stirred reactions from governments across the world.

In a rare statement, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II said she was "deeply saddened", while Pope Francis sent his hopes that Notre-Dame "may once again become, thanks to reconstruction work and the mobilisation of all, a jewel in the heart of the city." The Queen's son, Prince Charles, also shared his thoughts.

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe sent a message saying his country would consider sending support. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a message published on the Kremlin's website that the tragedy "struck a chord in the hearts of Russians." He called Notre Dame a "priceless treasure of Christian and world culture" and said Russia is ready to send the "best specialists" to help rebuild it.

Elsewhere, Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri expressed sadness over the fire he described as a "heritage and humanitarian disaster." Hariri added in a tweet late Monday that Lebanon expresses strong solidarity with the "friendly French people."


More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

Updated 24 April 2019

More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

  • Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday
  • The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban

DURBAN: At least 60 people have been killed and more than 1,000 have fled their homes after heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides along South Africa’s eastern coast, authorities said on Wednesday.
Most of the deaths were in KwaZulu-Natal province. Flooding also killed at least three people in neighboring Eastern Cape province, state broadcaster SABC said.
The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban. Multiple dwellings collapsed in mudslides, said Robert McKenzie, a KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services spokesman.
Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday.
Victor da Silva, a resident of the coastal town of Amanzimtoti, said his family managed to evacuate before the floods destroyed their home and cars.
“On Monday, the water was just crazy. And yesterday morning I got here, everything was fine, my garage was still here, the other part of the house was still here, and it just couldn’t stop raining,” Da Silva said. “And then an hour and a half later, everything poof (vanished) because the rain just hasn’t stopped.
Authorities in southern Tanzania ordered evacuations of residents from low-lying areas and the closure of schools and offices ahead of landfall of Tropical Cyclone Kenneth on neighboring Mozambique’s coast on Thursday.
“We’ve decided to evacuate all residents of valleys and other low-lying areas and we advise them to seek refuge at public spaces,” Mtwara regional commissioner Gelasius Byakanwa, told reporters.
Johan Fourie said he fled his home in Amanzimtoti, Kwazulu-Natal, just before part of it collapsed.
“I nearly lost my life, and my neighbor, I believe, is in hospital,” Fourie told eNCA television.
The region had been hit by heavy rains for days, but authorities did not foresee the extent of the downpour late on Monday, said Lennox Mabaso, a spokesman for the provincial Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department.
“As a result, there was flooding and some structures were undermined and collapsed on people,” Mabaso said.
Some people were swept away by the water, he added.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday and was expected in the Eastern Cape in the next few days.
“This is partly what climate change is about, that it just hits when we least expect it,” he said.
Last week, 13 people were killed during an Easter service in KwaZulu-Natal when a church wall collapsed after days of heavy rains and strong winds.