Notre Dame Cathedral 'still in state of peril' after fire

5 January 2020, 14:54

Notre Dame Cathedral was ravaged by a huge blaze
Notre Dame Cathedral was ravaged by a huge blaze. Picture: PA

The fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral is “still in a state of peril” as there is a risk its vaulted ceilings could collapse, according to the French general overseeing its reconstruction.

General Jean-Louis Georgelin said the actual condition of the Parisian cathedral's vaults is not fully known, which means he could not guarantee "it won't fall apart".

The blaze destroyed Notre Dame’s roof and toppled its 300ft, 750-tonne spire as the cathedral was undergoing renovations.

General Georgelin told French broadcaster CNews on Sunday: "Notre Dame is not saved because ... there is an extremely important step ahead, which is to remove the scaffolding that had been built around the spire.

"To make sure, we need to inspect the vaults, to remove the rubble that is still on them, it's a very difficult work that we have started.”

He also noted the fire released tonnes of toxic lead dust into the nearby air and ground, which needs to be cleaned up, a requirement that is slowing down the work.

But General Georgelin said "reassuring" observations have been made by experts on the 12th-century cathedral since the April 15 inferno.

He said they feel "quite confident" in the path they have chosen.

The rector of Notre Dame, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet, said last month the cathedral is still so fragile there's a "50 per cent chance" the structure might not be saved because the scaffolding may fall on to the vaulted ceilings.

A former chief of staff of France's armed forces, Mr Georgelin was named by French president Emmanuel Macron to lead the cathedral’s reconstruction.

The scaffolding should be removed by mid-2020 and the restoration work should start next year, he said.

Mr Macron has said he wants the 12th-century cathedral rebuilt by 2024, when Paris hosts the Summer Olympics but experts say that time frame is not realistic.

Mr Georgelin said no decision has been made yet about how the spire and the roof should be rebuilt and whether the frame for those should be in wood, metal or concrete.