Devastating fire in Paris

Billionaires pledge support to help rebuild Notre Dame

Notre Dame on fire

The sight of the cathedral on fire sent shockwaves around the world

French billionaires Bernard Arnault and Francois-Henri Pinault today made substantial pledges of support towards the reconstruction on Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris after a devastating fire swept through the medieval building.

Mr Arnault, owner of luxury goods and drinks group LVMH, said he and is family would give €200m for the restoration of “this extraordinary cathedral, which is a symbol of France, of its heritage and of French unity”.

His offer came soon after a pledge of €100m from Mr Pinault, chief executive of the Kering Group, which owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. The funds would be paid by the Pinault family’s investment firm Artemis, according to AFP.

Total, the French oil giant, has also pledged €100m, while the French charity Fondation du Patrimoine is launching an international appeal for funds for the cathedral, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Parisians watched in horror as the building which has stood at the heart of the city for 850 years was engulfed in flames. Mercifully, some of its holy relics, including a 13th century Royal tunic and the crown of thorns which some believe was worn by Christ, had been moved out of the cathedral during restoration work.

The first alert was sounded just after 18:20 local time (16:20 GMT), but on inspection no fire was found. It was only after a second alert at 18:43 that the blaze was discovered, and firefighters were called.

It was fully extinguished by 10:00 local time (08:00 GMT) and this morning it was confirmed that the basic gothic structure has survived. However, a number of large paintings are thought to have been destroyed.

Coming just days before the Easter celebrations, President Emanuel Macron pledged to resurrect the cathedral which is owned by the state.

spire of Notre Dame falls

The ancient spire collapses

There was an international outpouring of sympathy and support for Paris as the city began to consider the scale of the task in restoring the building.

The British government is looking into what it can do to help with its reconstruction, according Ed Llewellyn, the UK ambassador to France .Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would send experts to help restore the cathedral.

One analyst, said insurance company shares were expected to rise as a claim on this scale would soak up excess capacity.

The fire is thought to be connected with the restoration work which was also a factor in the fire at Glasgow School of Art last year.

While the fire is a great tragedy for one of the word’s great buildings and for Paris, there were also hopes that it might prove a big healer in a city riven by riots and demonstrations in recent months.

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