Millions pledged to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral after devastating fire

PARIS — A massive fundraising campaign was being launched Tuesday to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral, hours after a massive fire engulfed the iconic 800-year-old house of worship in the French capital.

The Paris Fire Service announced on Twitter that firefighters “came to grips with” the blaze early Tuesday, more than nine hours after they began the effort. It said nearly 400 firefighters had battled the inferno, and two policemen and one firefighter had been slightly injured. 

Paris firefighters spokesman Gabriel Plus said “the entire fire is out” and that emergency services were “surveying the movement of the structures and extinguishing smoldering residues,” according to media reports.

“The worst has been avoided, although the battle is not yet totally won,” said French President Emmanuel Macron who rushed to the scene of the blaze Monday. Announcing the fundraising effort, he vowed to reconstruct the church. 

“We’ll rebuild this cathedral all together and it’s undoubtedly part of the French destiny and the project we’ll have for the coming years,” said Macron.

French billionaire Francois Henri Pinault pledged $113 million towards reconstructing the cathedral, while fellow billionaire Bernard Arnault and his LVMH group pledged $226 million.

People stop to see and photograph the Notre Dame cathedral after the fire in Paris, Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Experts are assessing the blackened shell of Paris' iconic Notre Dame cathedral to establish next steps to save what remains after a devastating fire destroyed much of the almost 900-year-old building. With the fire that broke out Monday evening and quickly consumed the cathedral now under control, attention is turning to ensuring the structural integrity of the remaining building. (Photo: Kamil Zihnioglu, AP)

“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,” their statement said Tuesday.

The Vatican said Pope Francis was “praying for French Catholics and for the people of Paris in face of the terrible fire which has ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral,” the Agence France-Presse news agency reported.

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