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French billionaires pledge hundreds of millions of euro to help rebuild Notre Dame

The restoration is expected to take a number of years.

TWO FRENCH BILLIONAIRE have pledged hundreds of millions of euro to help build Notre Dame cathedral in Paris after a fire ripped through the French landmark yesterday.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said the monument will be rebuilt after its spire and roof collapsed last night in the blaze, which is thought to be linked to extensive renovation work.

French billionaire Bernard Arnault has now announced he and the LVMH luxury conglomerate he controls would give €200 million towards the reconstruction efforts.

His pledge came after his rival Kering, the fashion group founded by fellow billionaire Francois Pinault, offered €100 million to help “completely rebuild Notre-Dame”.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also said the city would unlock €50 million, and would propose holding an international donors’ conference in the coming weeks to coordinate the pledges to restore the gothic architectural masterpiece.

The privately run French Heritage Foundation has already launched a call for donations on its website, while several pages were set up on the Leetchi fundraising portal.

The Ile-de-France region comprising the greater Paris region is to provide another €10 million.

Rare materials

Specialist craftsmen and rare materials are expected to be needed to restore the monument. The head of a French lumber company told FranceInfo radio that it was ready to offer the best oak beams available to rebuild the intricate lattice that supported the now-destroyed roof. 

“The work will surely take years, decades even, but it will require thousands of cubic metres of wood. We’ll have to find the best specimens, with large diameters,” Sylvain Charlois of the Charlois group in Murlin, central France, told the radio station.

UNESCO has also said it will stand “at France’s side” to restore the site, which was declared a world heritage site in 1991.

“We are already in contact with experts and ready to dispatch an urgent mission to evaluate the damage, save what can be saved and start elaborating measures for the short – and medium-term,” UNESCO’s secretary general Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

- With reporting from AFP.

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