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Chinese 'can help Notre Dame revival'

By WANG MINGJIE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-04-17 10:08

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks near Notre Dame Cathedral as the fire rages. Reuters 

Gesture of support to stunned France would be appreciated, says historian

China can lend a helping hand in the rebuilding of Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral, whose spire and roof were destroyed by the huge fire that engulfed the 850-year-old Gothic building on Monday evening, said a historian from Cambridge University.

Alan Macfarlane, a historian and professor emeritus at King's College, said that given China's widely acknowledged engineering and construction expertise, "it would be a very appreciated gesture if the people of China offered their help in whatever way the French thought appropriate to rebuild a symbol for all of our world".

"The Chinese have built the largest airport in the world, a far larger job than rebuilding Notre Dame, in less than three years," Macfarlane said. "They could be of immense help."

President Xi Jinping sent a message of support to French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, expressing sincere condolences to all French people.

People pray and sing religious songs next to Notre Dame after the fire broke out on Monday. Reuters

Chinese people are deeply sad about the fire, just as the French are, Xi said.

He said he believes that with the efforts of the French people and support from the international community, Notre Dame will be repaired and regain its glory.

The fire broke out around 6:30 pm on the roof of the cathedral, which was covered in scaffolding. The blaze spread quickly and destroyed the wooden interior before causing the spire to collapse.

It took more than 400 firefighters over 12 hours to put out the fire, and the main structure and two bell towers remained standing.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, though officials said it could be linked to renovation work. Investigators were eager to question the workmen in an effort to determine the cause of the fire, according to media reports.

Visiting the scene of the fire in Paris, Macron vowed an immediate fundraising effort to rebuild the landmark, calling for international contributions.

"We will rebuild this cathedral all together and it is undoubtedly part of the French destiny and the project we will have for the coming years … a national subscription will be launched, and well beyond our borders we will appeal to the greatest talent, and there are many who will come to contribute and rebuild," Macron said.

A fire fighter stands in an aerial lift near the burnt roof after a massive fire destroyed the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. [Photo/IC]

"We will rebuild Notre Dame, because that's what French people expect, because it's what our history deserves and because it's our deep destiny," he added.

Already, two of France's wealthiest men have pledged large donations. Billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of the Kering group, which owns fashion brands including Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, pledged 100 million euros ($113 million) toward rebuilding Notre Dame, Agence France-Presse reported.

Bernard Arnault, chief executive of the LVMH group, which owns fashion labels including Louis Vuitton and Bulgari, said he would donate 200 million euros.

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre Dame, which has received about 13 million visitors each year-more than the Eiffel Tower-is regarded as one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and sits at the heart of the nation's history.

"Its partial loss is a terrible blow to a proud country and to the world more widely," said Macfarlane, the King's College historian.

A woman identified only as Marie, who has lived in Paris for 20 years, said: "This is a monument building that belongs to the story of Paris, to the story of France. ... Notre Dame is our story, our culture, our spirit."

Han Baoyi in Paris contributed to this story.

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