Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 8 December 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron pays tribute to Notre-Dame firefighters

More than 400 firefighters scrambled to put out the blaze at the world heritage site on Monday

France will pay tribute on Thursday to the Paris firefighters that helped save the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral from being burnt down in a fire on Monday.

The country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, welcomed firefighters and ministers to ceremonies at the Élysée presidential palace and at Paris City Hall today, to share “words of thanks”.

Over 400 firefighters worked tirelessly for nine hours to save the structure of the cathedral, after it caught fire on Monday evening. Although the building’s spire collapsed and the roof was destroyed, much of the rest of the structure, including many of its precious artefacts, were saved.

There were no casualties, apart from an injured fireman.

Later on Thursday, at 4pm local time, the French leader will hold a ceremony at Paris City Hall to honour the heroism of the firefighters, which will include a classical Bach violin concert and readings from Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”.

Among the firefighters being honoured is Paris fire brigade chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who helped salvage the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion, according to France 24.

Another is Myriam Chudzinski, who among the first firefighters to reach the roof as the inferno raged, reports the French newswire.

Both firefighters climbed hundreds of steps up the narrow spiral staircase to the top of one of the two towers.

"We knew that the roof was burning, but we didn't really know the intensity," Chudzinski told reporters. "It was from upstairs that you understood that it was really dramatic. It was very hot and we had to retreat, retreat. It was spreading quickly."

A leading expert warned on Thursday that the effort to save the building was not yet complete and called for immediate action on the charred walls of the cathedral. "We are not yet on the safe side in terms of the risk of collapse," said Frédéric Létoffé, president of the French Association of Restoration Companies."We need to build a new scaffolding with a protective screen that covers the building." This must happen as soon as possible. "After the fight against the fire we fight now against the time.”

Mr Macron also said on Thursday that Pope Francis would visit to France “at a time of his suiting”, in the aftermath of the fire.

Earlier in the week, the Pope expressed his sorrows over the blaze and praised the rescuers for saving the frame of the cathedral and salvaging its artefacts.

In a social media post on Tuesday, he said: “Today we unite in prayer with the people of France, as we wait for the sorrow inflicted by the serious damage to be transformed into hope with reconstruction. Holy Mary, Our Lady, pray for us. #NotreDame,”

US President Donald Trump spoke with Pope Francis on Wednesday, offering his condolences and the advice of US experts on renovation following the fire.

Mr Trump had previously suggested to use flying water tankers as a way of putting the fire out. His advice however, was shunned by the France’s Civil Security Agency, saying Mr Trump’s recommendation was ill-advised.

"The drop of water by air on this type of building could indeed result in the collapse of the entire structure," the agency tweeted.

The religious site, which dates back to the 12th century, is among one of Europe’s top relics, attracting some 13 million visitors a year.

Updated: April 18, 2019 06:40 PM