Macron vows to rebuild a ‘more beautiful’ Notre-Dame in 5 years

Flames and smoke rise from the blaze at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP/Thierry Mallet)
Updated 17 April 2019
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Macron vows to rebuild a ‘more beautiful’ Notre-Dame in 5 years

  • The blaze on Monday gutted the great Paris landmark, destroying the roof, causing the steeple to collapse and leaving France reeling with shock
  • Pledges worth around 700 million euros ($790 million) have already been made from French billionaires and businesses to restore the Gothic masterpiece

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame “even more beautifully” within five years, as all of France’s cathedrals prepared to ring their bells on Wednesday to mark 48 hours since the colossal fire began.
The blaze on Monday gutted the great Paris landmark, destroying the roof, causing the steeple to collapse and leaving France reeling with shock.
Macron announced the fast timescale for restoration — a process some experts said would take decades — in an address to the nation where he hailed how the disaster had shown the capacity of France to mobilize and unite.
Pledges worth around 700 million euros ($790 million) have already been made from French billionaires and businesses to restore the Gothic masterpiece.
An unknown number of artefacts and paintings have been lost and the main organ, which had close to 8,000 pipes, has also suffered damage.
But the cathedral’s walls, bell towers and the most famous circular stained-glass windows at France’s most visited tourist attraction remain intact.
Macron’s defiant comments indicated he wants the reconstruction of the cathedral to be completed by the time Paris hosts the Olympic Games in 2024.
“We will rebuild the cathedral even more beautifully and I want it to be finished within five years,” Macron said from the Elysee Palace. “And we can do it.”
Macron said that the dramatic fire had brought out the best in a country riven with divisions and since November shaken by sometimes violent protests against his rule.
“Our history never stops and that we will always have trials to overcome,” he added.
The bells of all cathedrals in France will sound at 6:50 p.m. (1650 GMT) on Wednesday, 48 hours after the fire started.
Images from inside the cathedral showed its immense walls standing proud, with statues still in place and a gleaming golden cross above the altar.
However the floor was covered in charred rubble from the fallen roof and water while parts of the vaulting at the top of the cathedral had collapsed.
Junior interior minister Laurent Nunez told reporters at the scene that work to secure the structure would continue into Thursday, allowing firefighters access to remove remaining artefacts and artworks.
He said the building had been saved within a critical time window of 15-30 minutes by a team of 400 firefighters who worked flat out through the night.
Though “some weaknesses” in the 850-year-old structure had been identified, overall it is “holding up OK,” he added.
Renovation work on the steeple, where workers were replacing its lead covering, is widely suspected to have caused the inferno.
Investigators interviewed witnesses and began speaking with employees of five different construction companies that were working on the monument, said public prosecutor Remy Heitz.
“Nothing indicates this was a deliberate act,” Heitz told reporters, adding that 50 investigators had been assigned to what he expected to be a “long and complex” case.
A public appeal for funds drew immediate support from French billionaires and other private donors as well as from countries including Germany, Italy and Russia which offered expertise.
French billionaire Bernard Arnault and his LVMH luxury conglomerate, rival high-end designer goods group Kering, Total oil company and cosmetics giant L’Oreal each pledged 100 million euros or more.
Support came from outside France as well, with Apple chief Tim Cook announcing the tech giant would give an unspecified amount.
But experts had warned a full restoration will take many years.
“I’d say decades,” said Eric Fischer, head of the foundation in charge of restoring the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg cathedral.
Thousands of Parisians and tourists watched in horror Monday as flames engulfed the building and rescuers tried to save as much as they could of the cathedral’s treasures.
Many more came Tuesday to the banks of the river Seine to gaze at where the roof and steeple once stood.
A firefighter suffered injuries during the blaze, which at one point threatened to bring down one of the two monumental towers on the western facade of the cathedral that is visited by 13 million tourists each year.
The Holy Crown of Thorns, believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion, was saved by firefighters, as was a sacred tunic worn by 13th-century French king Louis IX.
Rescuers formed a human chain at the site of the disaster to evacuate as many artefacts as possible, which were then stocked temporarily at the Paris town hall.


At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

Updated 2 min 41 sec ago
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At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

  • A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation
  • Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo: At least 161 people have been killed in a northeastern province of Democratic Republic of Congo in the past week, local officials said on Monday, in an apparent resurgence of ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities.
A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation, although the exact identity of the assailants remains murky.
Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo that left millions dead from conflict, hunger and disease.
Tit-for-tat attacks between the two groups in late 2017 and early 2018 killed hundreds of people and forced tens of thousands more to flee their homes, but a tenuous calm had taken hold until this month.
Pascal Kakoraki Baguma, a national lawmaker from Ituri, said the latest violence was sparked by the killing last Monday of four Lendu businesspeople.
“Members of the Lendu community believed that these assassinations were the work of the Hema,” Kakoraki said. “This is why they launched several attacks on Hema villages.”
“Sources affirm that 161 bodies have been found so far. But the death toll goes beyond the bodies recovered, as there were other massacres of civilians and police officers,” he said.
Jean Bosco Lalo, president of civil society organizations in Ituri, said 200 bodies had been found since last week in predominantly Hema villages, including the 161 mentioned by Kakoraki. Lalo said the toll would rise once his teams gained access to other villages where killings had been reported.
Ituri Governor Jean Bamanisa said provincial authorities were still working to establish the exact death toll and declined to say who was responsible.
He said the assailants’ tactics were to “empty out the villages, burn them and pursue those who had fled to the surrounding areas with bladed weapons.”
Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January, is trying to restore stability to the country’s eastern borderlands, a tinderbox of conflict among armed groups over ethnicity, natural resources and political power.
Several rebel leaders have surrendered or been captured during his first months in office, but armed violence has persisted, particularly in North Kivu province, south of Ituri, which is the epicenter of a 10-month Ebola outbreak.