PARIS >> Firefighters declared success Tuesday morning in their more than 12-hour battle to extinguish the flames that engulfed Paris’ iconic Notre Dame cathedral.
What remained was a blackened shell of the monument immortalized in Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” a building that had survived almost 900 years of tumultuous French history.
The two iconic 69-meter bell towers remained intact and swarmed with building specialists and architects at dawn, looking tiny from the ground as they conducted analysis. The cathedral’s spire and roof were gone, however.
Paris firefighters spokesman Gabriel Plus said “the entire fire is out” and that emergency services are currently “surveying the movement of the structures and extinguishing smoldering residues.”
“The task overnight was to bring the fire under control so it doesn’t re-start,” said Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez in front of the cathedral.
“The task is — now the risk of fire has been put aside — about the building, how the structure will resist,” he continued.
Officials consider the fire an accident, possibly as a result of restoration work taking place at the global architectural treasure, but that news has done nothing to ease the national mourning.
French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the cathedral that he called “a part of us” and appealed for help to do so.
As the country woke up in collective sadness, its richest businessman, Bernard Arnault, and his luxury goods group LVMH answered this call with a pledge of 200 million euros ($226 million).
A communique said that the Arnault family were “in solidarity with this national tragedy, and join in the reconstruction of this extraordinary cathedral, a symbol of France, of its heritage and togetherness.”
Businessman Francois-Henri Pinault and his billionaire father Francois Pinault also said they were immediately giving 100 million euros from their company, Artemis, to help finance repairs.
A statement from Francois-Henri Pinault said “this tragedy impacts all French people” and “everyone wants to restore life as quickly as possible to this jewel of our heritage.”
The 12th-century church is home to relics, stained glass and other works of art of incalculable value, and is a leading tourist attraction.