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Firefighters could not have done more to save Notre Dame Cathedral, say experts

Signing a book of sympathy at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast following the fire at Notre Dame in Paris

THE blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral is fully extinguished, firefighters in Paris have confirmed.

Earlier on Tuesday experts said there is little firefighters could have done to control the blaze any sooner.

The combination of a structure that is more than 850 years old, built with heavy timber construction and soaring open spaces, and lacking sophisticated fire protection systems, led to flames spreading quickly.

This jeopardised the entire cathedral before firefighters brought the blaze under control.

Glenn Corbett, a professor of fire science at John Jay College in New York, said: "Very often when you're confronted with something like this, there's not much you can do."

Fire hoses looked overmatched as flames raged across the cathedral's wooden roof and burned brightly for hours. The fire toppled a 300ft spire and launched cricket ball-sized embers into the air.

A Paris judicial official says investigators have questioned about 30 people after the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

He said most of them were employees working on the renovation of the monument.

The official said the cathedral's fire alarms sounded twice on Monday evening.

The first time, some people, including a fire official permanently working on the site, went to check under the roof and saw nothing. The second time it was already too late because the fire was too strong, the official said.

He added that 40 to 50 investigators are working on the case but are not allowed to enter the monument yet for safety reasons.

While the cause remains under investigation, authorities said that the cathedral's structure – including its landmark rectangular towers – has been saved.

The blaze may have been put out but the damage to the iconic monument has seared the collective soul of France and even Europe.

President Emmanuel Macron said the 12th Century cathedral "is the epicentre of our lives".

Pledges of help and solidarity have come from Poland, Germany and the UK, while Egypt's top Muslim cleric has expressed sadness over the fire that destroyed part of the famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, describing it as an "historic architectural masterpiece".

In the Vatican Pope Francis is praying for French Catholics and the Parisian population "under the shock of the terrible fire" that ravaged Notre Dame.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said on Twitter that the pope "is close to France" and that he is offering prayers "for all those who are trying to cope with this dramatic situation".

EU Council president Donald Tusk said: "The burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral has again made us aware that we are bound by something more important and more profound than treaties,"

However, as many were united in shock and grief, the fire saw two of France's richest men, locked in a long public rivalry, polarised even further. The enmity between Tycoons Bernard Arnault and François Pinault scaled new heights as they competed to outdo each other with donations for the restoration of the Parisian monument. As the news of the damage became clear Mr Pinault offered €100 million to finance renovations but hours later fellow billionaire Mr Arnault countered with €200m offer. The decades-long feud is believed to have begun during a bidding war for Italian fashion house Gucci.

The Bettencourt Meyers family, which owns cosmetics giant L'Oreal, and Total also each pledged €100m to go towards the restoration of the 850-year-old cathedral.

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