Emmanuel Macron has announced he wants to see Notre Dame cathedral rebuilt “more beautiful than before” within five years, but there are warnings that the repairs could take decades and will involve substantial challenges.
The main problems include the sourcing of materials and painstaking work to preserve elements of the church that have survived the fire but might have been badly damaged by it, experts have warned.
Eric Fischer, who heads a foundation restoring the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg Cathedral that recently underwent a three-year facelift, said he thought rebuilding Notre Dame would probably take several decades.
“The damage will be significant,” Fischer said.
Audrey Azoulay, director-general of Unesco, the UN’ cultural organisation, said restoring Notre Dame “will last a long time and cost a lot of money”.
Donations have poured in from around the world for the restoration efforts, with more than €800m (£692m) pledged as French tycoons and global corporations announced they would donate.
“The fire at Notre Dame reminds us that our history never stops and we will always have challenges to overcome,” Macron said on Tuesday night. “We will rebuild Notre Dame, more beautiful than before – and I want it done in the next five years. We can do it. After the time of testing comes a time of reflection and then of action.”
French authorities revealed on Tuesday that the cathedral was within “15 to 30 minutes” of complete destruction as firefighters battled to stop flames reaching its gothic bell towers.
A greater disaster was averted by members of the Paris fire brigade, who risked their lives to remain inside the burning monument to create a wall of water between the raging fire and two towers on the west facade.
The revelation of how close France came to losing its most famous cathedral emerged as police investigators questioned workers involved in the restoration of the monument to try to establish the cause of the devastating blaze.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said that an initial fire alert was sounded at 6:20pm on Monday evening but no fire was found. The second alert was sounded at 6:43pm, and the blaze was discovered on the roof.
Despite fears at the height of the inferno that the whole cathedral would be lost, the structure appears mainly intact.
Tom Nickson, a senior lecturer in medieval art and architecture at London’s Courtauld Institute, said the stone vault “acted as a kind of fire door between the highly flammable roof and the highly flammable interior” just as the cathedral’s medieval builders intended.
There are fears that the stones of the ceiling and beloved stained glass windows, which survived the blaze, may still have been badly damaged by it. If the stones of the vaulted ceiling have been weakened and cracked by the heat, the whole vault may need to be torn down and re-erected.
The cathedral’s exquisite stained-glass rose windows are probably suffering “thermal shock” from intense heat followed by cold water, said Jenny Alexander, an expert on medieval art and architecture at the University of Warwick. That means the glass, set in lead, could have sagged or been weakened and will need minute examination.
The first challenge for repairers will be to secure the building without disturbing the debris.
“Some of that material may be reusable, and that’s a painstaking exercise. It’s like an archaeological excavation,” said Duncan Wilson, chief executive of the conservation organisation Historic England.
Once the building has been stabilised and the damage assessed, restoration work can begin. It is likely to be an international effort.
“Structural engineers, stained-glass experts, stone experts are all going to be packing their bags and heading for Paris in the next few weeks,” Alexander said.
Financial and political considerations, as well as aesthetic ones, are likely to play a part in the decision about whether to preserve the cathedral as it was before the fire, or adapt it.
Getting materials may also be a challenge. The cathedral roof was made from oak beams cut from centuries-old trees, which were difficult to source even in the 13th century. Nickson said there is probably no country in Europe with big enough trees today.
Then there is the question of conforming to modern-day health and safety standards.
The roof of Strasbourg’s Notre Dame was set ablaze during the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. Nowadays the roof is split into three fire-resistant sections to make sure one blaze can’t destroy it all, with smoke detectors installed are at regular intervals.
“Cathedrals are stone phoenixes reminders that out of adversity we may be reborn,” said Emma Wells, a buildings archaeologist at the University of York.
“The silver lining, if we can call it that, is this allows for historians and archaeologists to come in and uncover more of its history than we ever knew before. It is a palimpsest of layers of history, and we can come in and understand the craft of our medieval forebears.”
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Nigeria Outlines Nine Focal Areas to Guide Foreign Policy in Next Four Years
Nigeria has identified nine priority areas that would guide its foreign policy actions in the next four years.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, made this known in Abuja while briefing members of the diplomatic corps on the priorities of the Nigerian government.
The priority areas include building a striving sustainable economy; enlarging agricultural output, food security and export; as well as attaining energy sustenance and power.
Others include expanding transport and other infrastructural products; expanding business growth entrepreneurship and industrialisation; expanding access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigeria; enhancing social inclusion, reducing poverty; fighting corruption; as well as improving governance and security for all.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in the first term of the present administration, the government’s priority was in three key areas, namely: fighting corruption, tackling insecurity, and job creation.
He said Nigeria’s foreign policy would henceforth be realistic in terms of reflecting the domestic reality of putting “Nigeria First”.
“We promote within the African Union (AU) good governance, democracy, and protection of human rights.
“We are not in any kind of conflict with any country in the whole world and we have excellent relations with every member state of AU and UN.
“We believe firmly that peaceful coexistence and security are pre-conditions for economic development and prosperity.
“We believe that the UN and multilateralism are forces for good.
The minister said more funds should be made available for UN peace-keeping operations.
Mr Onyeama, who said that the UN was doing a great job across many countries of the world, urged countries to continue to abide by UN resolutions, not choosing which ones to respect and which not to respect.
He condemned the use of force for the settlement of disputes and expressed strong support for institutions such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court for International conflict resolution.
He said international trade and economic diplomacy were the main focus of “our foreign policy.”
“We have to expand our trade; we have to innovate; we have to industrialise in order to lift our people out of poverty.
“We are striving to increase bilateral trade with all your countries very often within the framework of a bilateral commission.”
The minister disclosed that the ministry was building an online business machine portal to promote and facilitate cross-border trade.
According to him, global climate action has posed a lot of threat to lives.
He said the Lake Chad which had been a major source of livelihood for more than 30 million people, had shrunk by 90 per cent due to climate change.
He noted that irregular migration has been condemned and possible measures have been put in place to address it.
On border closure, the minister said the issue would be resolved very soon and that it would be a win-win situation for stakeholders.
He thanked the diplomats for their support and assured them of the Nigeria’s continued support.
Buhari Embarks on First 2020 Foreign Trip, Departs for UK Today
President Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja on Friday for London to participate in the inaugural UK-Africa Investment Summit holding on January 20.
The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, said the event would be hosted by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
The organisers said the event is expected to bring together African leaders, international business chief executives and heads of international organisations “to create new partnerships that will deliver more investments and jobs” to the benefit of people and businesses in African countries and the United Kingdom.
“Apart from highlighting new perspectives on UK-Africa Partnership for Prosperity, issues of Sustainable Finance and Infrastructure; Trade and Investment; Future African Growth Sectors and Clean Energy and Climate, are expected to dominate presentations and discussions during the Summit.
“With the expected take-off of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in mid-2020, the London investment summit will provide Nigeria with the opportunity to project itself as a leading investment destination for new industries.
“In addition, the summit will deepen Nigeria-United Kingdom investment ties post-Brexit given that Africa currently represents just two per cent of British trade activity, with Nigeria accounting for only 10 per cent of that total,” Mr Adesina stated.
He further disclosed that the Nigerian delegation to the investment meeting will showcase what the federal government had done through policies and legislation to improve the investment and business climate in the country.
While in the United Kingdom, the presidential aide said, Mr Buhari will meet with the Head of the Commonwealth, Prince Charles in Glasgow, Scotland.
“The president and his delegation will also have bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Johnson as well as heads of multilateral organisations,” he added.
He said the president would be accompanied to the Summit by Governors Yahaya Bello, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya and Okezie Ikpeazu of Kogi, Gombe and Abia States, respectively.
Also on the presidential entourage are the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
Others include the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.
Mr Buhari is expected back in Abuja on Thursday.
Power Grid Collapses Twice in Two Hours, Worsens Nationwide Blackout
The nation’s power grid collapsed twice in two hours on Thursday, worsening the blackout being experienced by consumers in parts of the country.
The grid, which is being managed by government-owned Transmission Company of Nigeria, has continued to suffer system collapse over the years amid a lack of spinning reserve that is meant to forestall such occurrences.
The TCN announced that a system disturbance occurred at about 12.34pm on Thursday, affecting some parts of the country.
“As at 1:10pm, supply was restored to Abuja and most parts of the affected areas. The TCN is still working to completely restore and stabilise the nation’s grid,” it said.
Ikeja Electric and Eko Electricity Distribution Company, two of the nation’s distribution companies, had earlier on Twitter informed their customers about the cause of the outage in Lagos.
“Dear customer, the outage you’re experiencing is due to a system collapse of the grid which occurred this afternoon at 12.36hrs. All parts of IE’s network are affected. Efforts are ongoing to restore the grid. Kindly bear with us,” Ikeja Electric said.
The Disco, in another tweet two hours later, said another system collapse was recorded at 2.15pm, adding that restoration efforts were ongoing.
Total power generation in the country stood at 4,236.3 megawatts as of 6am on Wednesday, according to latest data from the Nigerian Electricity System Operator.