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The fire in Notre-Dame destroys history and beauty

The sky of Paris was still clear, and incredibly bright when, just before 7 p.m., incredulous passers-by saw the first flames rise on Notre-Dame de Paris. As the news of the fire spread rapidly through the media, the terrifying images of the news already penetrated the homes, leaving viewers all over the world astonished. The live collapse of the splendid spire, the flèche as it is called here, struck in the heart all the French, and not only, alike. The spire, which tickled the sky 93 meters above the ground, is no longer there.

The French mourn, and I mourn with them because I caressed it with my gaze just yesterday. Yes, distractedly as if I were to see her again tomorrow. But the French also cry with anger because it was not an earthquake or any natural disaster that demolished it, but carelessness. Designed by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, rebuilt in 1860, the so-called arrow – topped by the statue of a copper rooster – the famous spire, was devastated by flames under the eyes of the brave firemen, who made superhuman efforts to save the salvageable.

But how can the flames be extinguished ninety metres above the ground with pumps whose jets of water can only reach thirty metres in height? It was impossible to use fire-fighting planes or helicopters because of the “fragility of the monument”, the authorities rushed to explain. But are the fireproof materials and treatments for fire prevention planned? Have they been used? This is not known at the moment.

A world-famous jewel of Gothic architecture, the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991, continues to be the symbol of the Catholic Church in France and the seat of the Archdiocese of Paris, although it is owned by the French State as a result of the 1905 law on the separation of powers.

According to the spokesman for the cathedral, the fire spread from the attic. The commander of the Parisian fire brigade, Colonel Jean-Claude Gallet, assured us that he had sent suitable means. Several hundred firemen, supplied with water from the Seine by two lookout helicopters, took turns on the spot. The two towers of the cathedral are safe. But two thirds of the roofs are compromised. The Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office has initiated a preliminary procedure for “involuntary destruction by fire”.

The President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron promptly postponed his speech on the “great debate of ideas” and rushed on the spot together with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. Messages of solidarity came from all over the world.

Liduina Demontis,
Correspondent from France

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