Notre Dame rector: Fragile Paris cathedral might not be saved

Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, above, said restoration work of Notre Dame Cathedral is not likely to begin until 2021. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 25 December 2019

Notre Dame rector: Fragile Paris cathedral might not be saved

  • Monsignor Patrick Chauvet said restoration work isn’t likely to begin until 2021
  • The 12th-century Notre Dame cathedral was under renovation at the time of the accidental April fire

PARIS: The rector of Notre Dame Cathedral says the Paris landmark is still so fragile that there’s a “50 percent chance” the structure might not be entirely saved, because scaffolding installed before this year’s fire is threatening the vaults of the Gothic monument.
Monsignor Patrick Chauvet said restoration work isn’t likely to begin until 2021 — and described his “heartache” at not being able to celebrate Christmas services inside Notre Dame this year, for the first time since the French Revolution.
“Today it is not out of danger,” he told The Associated Press on the sidelines of Christmas Eve midnight Mass in a nearby church. “It will be out of danger when we take out the remaining scaffolding.”
“Today we can say that there is maybe a 50 percent chance that it will be saved. There is also 50 percent chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, so as you can see the building is still very fragile,” he said.
The 12th-century cathedral was under renovation at the time of the accidental April fire, which destroyed its roof and collapsed its spire. One of the toughest parts of the cleanup effort is cutting down the 50,000 tubes of old scaffolding that crisscrossed the back of the edifice.
“We need to remove completely the scaffolding in order to make the building safe so in 2021 we will probably start the restoration of the cathedral,” Chauvet said. “Once the scaffolding is removed we need to assess the state of the cathedral, the quantity of stones to be removed and replaced.”
He estimated it would take another three years after that to make it safe enough for people to re-enter the cathedral, but that the full restoration will take longer. President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants it rebuilt by 2024, when Paris hosts the Olympics, but experts have questioned whether that time frame is realistic.
Unable to celebrate Christmas in Notre Dame this year, its congregation, clergy and choir decamped to the Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois Church across from the Louvre Museum instead.
Parishioners at Christmas Eve Mass shared sorrow about the fire, but also a feeling of solidarity.
“I remember my mother told me that she was watching TV, and that there was a fire at Notre Dame. I told her ‘it’s not possible,’ and I took my bike, and when I arrived I was crying,” said Jean-Luc Bodam, a Parisian engineer who used to cross town to attend services at the cathedral.
“We are French, we are going to try to rebuild Notre Dame as it was before, because it is a symbol,” he said.


Man suspected of killing wife, three children in Australia fire

Updated 20 February 2020

Man suspected of killing wife, three children in Australia fire

  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was ‘shocked, saddened and devastated’ by the tragedy
  • A passer-by who tried to intervene in the situation was also taken to hospital to be treated for facial burns

SYDNEY: An ex-rugby league player is suspected of murdering his three children and estranged wife in Australia by burning them alive inside their car, in what police described as one of the most horrific incidents they have encountered.

Officers said 31-year-old Hannah Clarke died in a Brisbane hospital on Wednesday just hours after her three children aged three, four and six were found dead in the car on a suburban street.

Her husband, Rowan Baxter, who also died, allegedly approached the vehicle and doused it with petrol before setting it alight, The Australian newspaper reported.

The paper said Clarke jumped from the burning car and rolled on the ground, saying “he’s poured petrol on me.”

Officials said she was rushed to hospital with severe burns following the “horrific” incident but later succumbed to her injuries.

Baxter, a 42-year-old former rugby league player for the New Zealand Warriors, was believed to be in the burning vehicle but got out and died on a footpath.

Queensland Police detective inspector Mark Thompson said Thursday that Baxter died as a result of burns and a self-inflicted wound.

“Information that’s to hand has led us to believe that the Baxter children and Hannah Clarke were killed and I don’t believe there’s any suspicious circumstances around the death of Rowan Baxter,” he said.

Clarke’s sister-in-law, Stacey Roberts, set up a fundraiser to pay for funeral costs and support Hannah’s parents, who she said had “exhausted themselves to try and help Hannah escape this monster.”

“All those who knew Hannah or had even just met her once would know how much of a beautiful soul she was. Her children (were) her life,” Roberts posted on Facebook.

The page has so far raised almost Aus$100,000 ($67,000).

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was “shocked, saddened and devastated” by the tragedy, which has led to an outpouring of grief on social media.

“Hannah and her three children were so senselessly and maddeningly murdered in what has occurred in a terrible act of violence and it just grieves our hearts terribly today,” he said.

Natasha Stott Despoja, a former senator and chair of anti-violence group Our Watch, called for stronger action to address violence against women in Australia, which she described as a “national emergency.”

“I know people want change, people are angry & sad today,” she tweeted. “How long before we stop this slaughter in our suburbs?“

A passer-by who tried to intervene in the situation was also taken to hospital to be treated for facial burns, a Queensland Ambulance Service spokesperson said.

The emergency responders who attended the scene have been stood down from their duties and will receive support, he added.