NEWS DESK, APRIL 11
A major fire has engulfed the medieval Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, one of France’s most famous landmarks.
The 850-year-old Gothic building’s spire and roof have collapsed but the main structure, including the two bell towers, has been saved, officials say.
Firefighters are still working to contain the blaze as teams are trying to salvage the artwork stored inside.
President Emmanuel Macron called it a “terrible tragedy”. The cause of the fire is not yet clear.
But officials say it could be linked to the renovation work that began after cracks appeared in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said it has opened an inquiry into “accidental destruction by fire”.
Visiting the scene, Mr Macron said the “worst had been avoided” and that an international fundraising scheme to rebuild the cathedral would be launched.
The fire began early on Monday evening and quickly reached the roof of the cathedral, destroying its stained-glass windows and the wooden interior before toppling the spire.
Firefighters worked for hours to prevent one of the main bell towers from collapsing.
But the main structure had been “saved and preserved” from total destruction, Paris fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet said.
Deputy Paris Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said the cathedral had suffered “colossal damages”, and teams were working to save the cathedral’s remaining valuable artwork.
Speaking to French broadcaster BFMTV, historian Camille Pascal said “invaluable heritage” had been destroyed, adding: “Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre Dame. We can be only horrified by what we see”.
Thousands of people gathered in the streets around the cathedral, observing the flames in silence. Some could be seen openly weeping, while others sang hymns or said prayers.
Several churches around Paris rang their bells in response to the blaze.
Mr Macron, who cancelled an address to the nation because of the fire, said the cathedral was a building “for all French people”, including those who had never been there.
“We will rebuild Notre Dame together”, he said as he praised the “extreme courage” and “professionalism” of the firefighters.
The church receives almost 13 million visitors each year, more than the Eiffel Tower
It was built in the 12th and 13th centuries and is currently undergoing major renovations
Several statues of the facade of the Catholic cathedral were removed for renovation
The roof, which has been destroyed by the blaze, was made mostly of wood.
The French president has vowed to rebuild, with Gucci billionare François-Henri Pinault already pledging 100m Euro.
Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten will have their first TV debate of the election on Monday April 29, in Perth.
The face off between the PM and the Leader of the Opposition will be the first leaders’ debate ever to be held in Western Australia.
Despite being little more than two weeks away, details of the debate’s structure, where and when it might take place, and who will host it are yet to be confirmed.
The likely topics however have been named as the economy, tax cuts and health funding.
The World Health Organisation reports that the number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of this year to 112,163 against the same period last year.
It has appealed for better vaccination coverage.
Higher rates of the preventable but contagious disease – which can kill a child or leave it blind, deaf or brain-damaged – have been recorded in all regions, the United Nations agency said citing provisional data.
Australia has also been hit. NSW has had 35 cases since Christmas and Queensland has seen 12 confirmed cases this year.
Fresh outbreaks have hit the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine, “causing many deaths – mostly among young children”, the WHO said on Monday.
It gave no figures for fatalities but noted it estimates that only one in 10 cases is reported globally.
“Over recent months, spikes in case numbers have also occurred in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States of America as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people,” the WHO statement said.
US federal health officials said on Monday the number of confirmed cases of measles in the United States this year jumped by nearly 20 per cent in the week ended April 11 – the country’s second-worst outbreak in nearly two decades.
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