French billionaire businessman Bernard Arnault’s family and his LVMH luxury goods group will donate 200 million euro (US$226 million) to help rebuild Paris’ Notre-Dame cathedral which was ravaged by a fire on Monday.
“The Arnault family and the LVMH group would like to show their solidarity at this time of national tragedy, and are joining up to help rebuild this extraordinary cathedral, which is a symbol of France, of its heritage and of French unity,” a statement issued on behalf of Arnault said, Reuters reports.
Arnault’s pledge follows a 100 million euro donation for Notre-Dame from Francois Henri Pinault, who heads the Kering luxury goods company.
The pledges came as French President Emmanuel Macron said the nation would launch a campaign to rebuild the cathedral, including fundraising efforts and by appealing to “talents” from overseas to contribute.
“We will rebuild it together. It will undoubtedly be part of French destiny and our project for the years to come,” Macron said after the terrible blaze that destroyed the centuries-old Notre-Dame.
A massive fire on Monday gutted the roof of the Paris landmark, though firefighters saved the main bell towers and outer walls from collapse before bringing the blaze under control.
Flames that began in the early evening burst rapidly through the roof of the cathedral and engulfed the spire, which toppled, quickly followed by the entire roof.
The fire, after burning for about 8 hours, was largely extinguished by 0300 CET on Tuesday. Earlier, in addition to battling to prevent one of the main bell towers from collapsing, firefighters tried to rescue religious relics and priceless artwork.
One firefighter was seriously injured – the only reported casualty.
“The worst has been avoided,” Macron told reporters at the scene shortly before midnight.
The cathedral’s main stone structure had escaped complete destruction by the time the fire came under control.
“We will continue to watch over any residual pockets of fire and cool down the areas that are still red-hot, like the wooden beam framework,” a fire brigade spokesman said in the early hours of Tuesday.
Distraught Parisians and stunned tourists gazed in disbelief as the inferno raged at the cathedral, which sits on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the River Seine and marks the very center of Paris.
Built over a century starting in 1163, Notre-Dame is considered to be among the finest examples of French Gothic cathedral architecture.
It is renowned for its rib vaulting, flying buttresses and stunning stained glass windows, as well as its many carved stone gargoyles.
Its 100-meter-long roof, of which a large section was consumed in the first hour of the blaze, was one of the oldest such structures in Paris, according to the cathedral’s website.
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