World, Europe

France: Notre Dame reconstruction stalled amid COVID-19

Fire broke out beneath roof of medieval cathedral on April 15, 2019, reconstruction halted till lockdown in place

Cindi Cook   | 15.04.2020
France: Notre Dame reconstruction stalled amid COVID-19

PARIS

A lot has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. Entire countries are under lockdown, inter-nation and international traffic has stopped, and industries have ceased operation in the face of the virus that has taken over 128,000 lives in 185 countries, and put the world in a tailspin.

Even the rebuilding of one of France's most cherished monuments has been put on hold. It was at 6:20 p.m. (1820hrs GMT) one year ago that Notre Dame cathedral caught fire. The blaze started in the attic and quickly spread through the wood roof of the eight-century-old structure, engulfing it almost entirely and sending the church's famous spire crashing down like a matchstick.

The fire burned for 15 hours, battled by 400 firefighters who saved it from near collapse.

Over the past year, the world has watched as Notre Dame was being lovingly restored by a team of 100 researchers, archaeologists, engineers, and scientists. With the onset of the coronavirus, however, and President Emmanuel Macron putting France in a state of confinement until May 11, all of that has come to a screeching halt. The only workers present being security guards to ensure that Notre Dame stays as safe as the population it serves.

The fire is thought to have started from faulty equipment, there for work on the cathedral that was already under restoration. Scaffolding had been in place to hold up the rafters, quickly turning to 300 tons of a burned and broken mess that workers have been sifting through over the past year.

An additional 40,000 pieces of now-mangled metal remain to be repaired, still holding up parts of the roof and at risk of falling onto the already faulty walls.

President Macron has said that the restoration will take five years but experts caution that that is too optimistic.

In a statement to France24 radio, Jean-Louis Georgelin, the French general appointed by the president to head restoration, said that despite being anxious to get back to it, he had every worker's health and safety top of mind.

"We have to be sure that they are protected and not exposed to this virus in a way that could threaten their health at either their accommodations or on site," he said. "We will restart work as soon as we can."

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