France vows to rebuild a 'more beautiful' Notre-Dame in 5 years
PARIS- Agence France-Presse
President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame "even more beautifully" within five years.
The blaze on April 15 gutted the great Paris landmark, destroying the roof, causing the steeple to collapse and leaving France reeling with shock.
Macron announced the speedy timescale for restoration- a process some experts had said would take decades- in an address to the nation where he hailed how the disaster had shown the capacity of France to mobilize and unite.
Pledges worth around 700 million euros ($790 million) have already been made from French billionaires and businesses to restore the Gothic masterpiece.
An unknown number of artefacts and paintings have been lost and the main organ, which had close to 8,000 pipes, has also suffered damage.
But the cathedral's walls, bell towers and the most famous circular stained-glass windows at France's most visited tourist attraction remain intact.
In a further sign of the monument's resilience, the copper rooster that topped its spire was found on April 16 in the rubble from the partly collapsed roof, "battered but apparently restorable" according to a spokesperson for the culture ministry.
Macron's announcement of a five-year restoration timeframe indicates he wants the reconstruction to be completed by the time Paris hosts the Olympic Games in 2024.
"We will rebuild the cathedral even more beautifully and I want it to be finished within five years," he said in the speech from the presidential palace. "We can do it."
It had shown that "our history never stops and that we will always have trials to overcome," he added.
Investigators trying to determine the cause of the blaze will also continue questioning workers who were renovating the steeple before the fire broke out.
Images from inside the cathedral showed its immense walls standing proud, with statues still in place and a gleaming golden cross above the altar.
However the floor was covered in rubble and scorched beams from the fallen roof and water while parts of the vaulting at the top of the cathedral had collapsed.
He said the building had been saved within a critical time window of 15-30 minutes by a team of 400 firefighters who worked flat out through the night.
Though "some weaknesses" in the 850-year-old structure had been identified, overall it is "holding up OK,” he added.
A public appeal for funds has secured nearly a billion euros in pledges from some of France's wealthiest families and companies.
French billionaire Bernard Arnault and his LVMH luxury conglomerate, rival high-end designer goods group Kering, Total oil company and cosmetics giant L'Oreal each pledged 100 million euros or more.
Support came from outside France as well, with Apple chief Tim Cook announcing the tech giant would give an unspecified amount.
But experts had warned a full restoration will take many years.
"I'd say decades," said Eric Fischer, head of the foundation in charge of restoring the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg cathedral.
Germany, Italy and Russia are among the countries to have offered expert help.