July 24, 2019 / 3:41 PM / 4 months ago

Heatwave threatens France's fire-ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the damaged roof of Notre-Dame de Paris during restoration work, three months after a fire that devastated the cathedral in Paris, France, July 14, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - The searing temperatures gripping France risk precipitating the collapse of Notre-Dame de Paris’ fire-ravaged vaulted ceiling, the cathedral’s chief architect said on Wednesday.

The centuries-old Notre-Dame was devastated in April by an inferno that gutted the ceiling and sent the cathedral’s towering spire crashing through a part of the ceiling.

“I am very worried about the heatwave,” chief architect Philippe Villeneuve said. “What I fear is that the joints or the masonry, as they dry, lose their coherence, their cohesion and their structural qualities and that all of sudden, the vault gives way.”

Villeneuve said the vaulted ceiling “could very well” collapse and that unlike the bell towers and other parts of the cathedral, experts had still not been able to access the ceiling from above or below.

Eighty out of mainland France’s 96 administrative departments were on Orange alert – the second highest level of warning - on Wednesday as a blistering heatwave intensified.

State forecaster Meteo France predicted Paris would swelter in record temperatures of around 42 Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) on Thursday, the expected peak of the summer’s second intense heatwave. The capital’s current record of 40.4 C (104.7 F) was registered in 1947.

President Emmanuel Macron has promised Notre-Dame will be rebuilt within five years. Workmen have erected a giant white tarpaulin over the gutted roof, stabilised the cathedral’s pinnacles and placed dozens of sensors to detect any movement.

The blaze at the cathedral, built over nearly 200 years starting in the middle of the 12th century and long a symbol of Paris, prompted an outpouring of sadness in France and around the world.

Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Frances Kerry

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