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Rouen cathedral fire brought under control after initial echo of Notre-Dame

Firefighters brought a blaze on the spire of Rouen’s historic cathedral in northern France under control on Thursday after it had sent a thick plume of smoke into the sky and reminded onlookers of the fire at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.

People in the streets below watched in horror as 40 fire engines rushed to the site and emergency workers set up a cordon around the cathedral, a jewel of French medieval Gothic architecture made famous by the paintings of impressionist Claude Monet in the 19th century.

The spire had been in renovation for years and was surrounded by scaffolding and a white cover when the fire began about 120 metres above ground level.

Eye-witness Patrick Waeselynck told BFM television he was sitting at the terrace of a nearby cafe when he heard people shouting “fire”.

“I turn around and I see the cathedral spire, the tarpaulin which was protecting the restoration work, which was burning, big flames, black smoke,” he said.

“The first thing we thought was what happened in Paris, it was a shock of course. But the police arrived, they set up a security perimeter, the firefighters arrived.”

Workers involved in the renovation raised the alarm, said fire brigade chief Stephane Gouezec.

“The elements that were combusting when we arrived were plastic elements from the worksite,” Gouezec told several TV channels just outside the building.

TV footage at 1105 GMT showed the plume of smoke had stopped billowing from the spire.

The fire brigade chef said 70 firefighters and about 40 fire engines were taking part in the operation. He said they would keep working until all hot spots were extinguished.

The local prefect, Jean-Benoit Albertini, said officials were assessing if any parts of the cathedral or its art works were at risk of water damage from the response to the fire.

“It’s possible though not certain that we may have to remove certain items which could be at risk from projected water,” said Albertini.

Rouen cathedral looked to have escaped the fate of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, where a devastating fire which also started during renovation works destroyed the roof, the spire and almost toppled the main bell towers.

Five years on, restoration of the Paris landmark continues and its reopening is scheduled for December. As of April this year the renovation had cost 550 million euros ($599 million).

Earlier this year a massive fire hit another historic European building, Copenhagen’s Old Stock Exchange, toppling its spire. Large parts of the outer walls later collapsed.


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Last Updated: 13th Jul 2024