Paris honors 'exemplary' firefighters for saving Notre-Dame
PARIS - AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron on April 18 hailed as "exemplary" hundreds of firefighters who saved Notre-Dame in the devastating blaze, as efforts intensified to ensure there was no further damage to the still fragile cathedral.
Some 600 firefighters worked throughout the night Monday to put out the fire at the Paris landmark and prevent an even worse disaster, in a blaze that felled the spire and destroyed two-thirds of its roof.
Sixty firefighters are still keeping a vigil at Notre-Dame to ensure no further fire erupts while France's culture minister warned that two gables and figurines perched high up in the building were still at risk of collapse inside.
Dressed in ceremonial uniform, the firefighters and other emergency workers filed into the Elysee Palace for the closed-door meeting with Macron.
"The country and the entire world were watching us and you were exemplary," Macron said. "You were the perfect example of what we should be," he added.
He said the firefighters would be awarded France's golden medal of honor in recognition of their "courage and devotion."
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo was also to pay tribute to the firefighters and others who helped save the 850-year-old gothic masterpiece, in a ceremony from 1430 GMT outside the city hall.
Culture Minister Franck Riester said on that even three days after the fire there remained concerns that parts of the building could collapse.
He said one gable in the north transept and another between the two great bell towers were at risk.
He also said that figures in the southern bell tower still risked falling and, if they did, this would damage the organs below. An operation will be undertaken to remove them.
But he added that "thanks to the exceptional work of the fire brigade, their courage, the strategy for attacking the fire adopted by the two officers in charge, we can say that the worst was avoided."
Macron had on Tuesday in an address to the nation outlined an ambitious strategy to rebuild Notre Dame within just five years, hailing the French as a nation of "builders."
goal was warmly applauded by some but greeted with skepticism by some experts who warned of the painstaking work and expertise needed to make the cathedral anew.