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Notre Dame will be rebuilt within the next five years, French President Emmanuel Macron says

A man looks at the damage caused to Notre-Dame Cathedral following a major fire yesterday on April 16, 2019 in Paris, France.
Dan Kitwood | Getty Images
Key Points
  • French President Emmanuel Macron vowed Tuesday to rebuild the heavily damaged symbol of France within the next five years.
  • The massive fire that ripped through Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral, collapsing the roof and spire, was likely sparked accidentally, prosecutors say.
  • As investigators look into what started the fire, a drive to rebuild the cathedral has already received more than $700 million in pledges, according to Reuters.
French President Macron vows to rebuild Notre Dame after massive fire
French President Macron vows to rebuild Notre Dame after massive fire

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral within five years after a devastating fire Monday caused the landmark's roof and spire to collapse.

"We now have to get things done," Macron said in an address Tuesday. "We will act and we will succeed."

Monday's devastating fire was likely sparked accidentally, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Outside the building, the cathedral's two bell towers and outer walls stood firm, while their insides and the upper structure were eviscerated by the blaze.

Investigators will not be allowed inside the cathedral until experts can verify that the structure withstood the heat and it is safe for them to enter.

Scaffolding which was erected for the renovation of the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral, remains in place a day after a devastating fire destroyed the roof and other areas of the Gothic cathedral in central Paris on April 16, 2019.
Philippe Lopez | AFP | Getty Images

As investigators look into what started the fire, a drive to rebuild the cathedral has already received more than $700 million in pledges, according to Reuters.

More than 400 firefighters battled the blaze for 15 hours. The fire was largely extinguished, saving the 8½-century-old building from "total destruction," according to a French fire official. The two iconic rectangular bell towers were saved even though the fire spread to one of them Monday evening.

Fallen debris from the burnt out roof structure sits near the altar inside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, on Tuesday, April 16, 2019.
Christophe Morin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

No deaths were reported, but two police officers and a firefighter were injured. The blaze erupted around 6:50 p.m. Paris time Monday, luckily after it had closed to the public. The destruction came during Holy Week, six days before Easter.

Pope Francis said Tuesday that he shared the sadness of the French people mourning the devastation.

"I associate myself with your sadness, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris and all the French," Francis said in a message to the archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit.

A Paris fire brigade member sprays water on flames inside the Notre Dame-Cathedral, in this image provided by the Paris Fire Brigade, after a fire broke out, in Paris, France, April 15, 2019.

French Culture Minister Franck Riester said Tuesday some of the most valuable pieces of art inside Notre Dame were saved and relocated, including the crown of thorns and the tunic of St. Louis, which have been relocated to Paris City Hall. Other artworks will be transferred to the Louvre Museum, he said.

"The worst has been avoided, but the battle isn't fully won yet," Macron said Monday outside of the cathedral. He also expressed his sympathies to Catholics around the world, the people of Paris and the people of France.

Fallen debris from the burnt out roof structure sits near the altar inside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Authorities declared Tuesday morning that the blaze had been contained as firefighters hosed the south side of the transept to cool down the building, and a district around the cathedral was sealed as military and police patrolled the area. Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Christophe Morin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Among the donations pledged to rebuild were from two of France's richest people. Francois-Henri Pinault, whose Artemis holding company owns a controlling stake in luxury group Kering, pledged 100 million euros ($113 million), while Bernard Arnault, chair of LVMH, gave 200 million euros.

In addition, French energy company Total pledged 100 million euros and French luxury and cosmetics group, L'Oreal along with its owners, the Bettencourt Meyers family, and the Bettencourt Schueller foundation, said they would donate 200 million euros.

The city of Paris has pledged 50 million euros to the restoration.

Residents living close to the cathedral were evacuated in case the building collapsed, said Paris Mayor Anne Hildago. The area surrounding the cathedral, Paris' Ile de la Cite, was also evacuated, according to Reuters.

A firefighter uses a hose to douse flames and smoke billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019.
Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt |  AFP | Getty Images

The Paris prosecutor's office opened an investigation into the fire soon after the damage began. Late Monday, prosecutors said their preliminary findings suggested the huge fire had been started accidentally. The building had been undergoing renovations.

"We are favoring the theory of an accident," Paris public prosecutor Remy Heitz told reporters on Tuesday. About 50 people are now working on a probe into what caused the fire, he said.

Le Bras Freres, the company working on the cathedral's restorations, said it will be cooperating fully with the investigation.

"All I can tell you is that at the moment the fire began none of my employees were on the site. We respected all procedures," said a representative of Le Bras Freres, a family firm.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (L), and French President Emmanuel Macron (3rd L) gather in near the entrance of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral in Paris, as flames engulf its roof.
Philippe Wojazer | AFP | Getty Images

Investigators have started questioning witnesses and 15 construction workers who were at the site on Monday, NBC News reported.

Firefighters at the scene directed much of their efforts toward saving the artwork stored at the back of the cathedral, which had been undergoing renovations.

Notably, 16 religious statues were removed from the cathedral for cleaning on Thursday — for the first time in over a century — and therefore escaped the fire.

Watch: Notre Dame cathedral spire collapses during massive fire
Watch: Notre Dame cathedral spire collapses during massive fire

The cathedral, which dates to the year 1163 and is famous for featuring in Victor Hugo's classic novel "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame," attracts millions of tourists every year.

President Donald Trump offered his condolences to Macron on Tuesday, according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

"The United States stands with French citizens, the city of Paris, and the millions of visitors from around the world who have sought solace in that iconic structure. The Cathedral has served as a spiritual home for almost a millennium, and we are saddened to witness the damage to this architectural masterpiece," the statement said.

"Notre Dame will continue to serve as a symbol of France, including its freedom of religion and democracy. France is the oldest ally of the United States, and we remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame's bells on September 12, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic September 11th attacks on American soil. Those bells will sound again. We stand with France today and offer our assistance in the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization. Vive la France!" the statement said.

Trump on Monday encouraged France to use "flying water tankers" to put out the fire. French firefighters didn't use an aircraft to dump water on the cathedral, a strategy that France's civil defense agency dismissed on Twitter.

"Helicopter or airplane, the weight of the water and the intensity of the drop at low altitude could indeed weaken the structure of Notre-Dame and result in collateral damage to the buildings in the vicinity," the agency wrote.

Later, Trump tweeted his prayers.

"God bless the people of France!"

Parisians mourned the destruction of the city's symbolic center. The cathedral has not undergone such damage in its more than 800 year history.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner (2-R), French Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez (R) meet with Paris fire brigade commander general Jean-Claude Gallet (back) and fire fighters outside Notre-Dame-de Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral in Paris,on April 16, 2019.
Christophe Pettit Tesson | AFP | Getty Images

"I'm devastated," Elizabeth Caille, 58, who lives nearby, told NBC News. "It's a symbol of Paris. It's a symbol of Christianity. It's a whole world that is collapsing."

You can see images of the fire here.

— Reuters, The Associated Press and NBC News contributed to this report.