Bulletproof walls set to protect Eiffel Tower

Among the new security measures at the Eiffel Tower in Paris are 6.5cm-thick glass walls (above) and 3.24m-high metal barriers (left).
Among the new security measures at the Eiffel Tower in Paris are 6.5cm-thick glass walls (above) and 3.24m-high metal barriers.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE
Among the new security measures at the Eiffel Tower in Paris are 6.5cm-thick glass walls (above) and 3.24m-high metal barriers (left).
Among the new security measures at the Eiffel Tower in Paris are 6.5cm-thick glass walls and 3.24m-high metal barriers (above).PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE

PARIS • Paris is set to unveil thick bulletproof glass walls and metal fences around the Eiffel Tower, designed to protect France's most famous monument from terrorist attacks.

The boosted security measures, under construction since last year, come with France still on high alert after a string of extremist attacks that have killed more than 240 people since 2015.

The new walls, shown to journalists during a site tour last Thursday, are part of security measures that have cost nearly €35 million (S$55 million) and are due to be finished by the middle of next month.

Glass walls measuring 6.5cm thick will run along the riverside Quai Branly boulevard as well as the Avenue Gustave Eiffel which separates the tower from a park.

The walls, which are bulletproof as well as resistant to vehicle-ramming attacks, are "rock-solid for absolute security", said Mr Bernard Gaudillere, head of SETE, the company which runs the Eiffel Tower.

The other two sides will be fenced off with metal barriers formed from curved prongs in the form of the tower itself. At 3.24m high, they stand exactly a hundredth of the height of the "Iron Lady".

Mr Gaudillere said his team worked with police to decide how best to secure the monument, which has itself repeatedly switched off its twinkling night-time lights in memory of the victims of attacks around the world.

Tourists visiting the site last Thursday, still mindful of the horrific Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacks of November 2015 in which 130 people were killed at Paris nightspots, said they felt reassured by the new measures.

"We live in a dangerous time. I think it's a great idea - when I see this, I feel more safe," said Ms Edyta Poncyljusz, visiting from Warsaw.

Mr David Luke, from the United States, noted with dismay that tourists are no longer free to walk under the tower, as was the case the last time he visited four years ago.

"It's inconvenient and a little annoying, but we're used to security measures in the US - going through metal detectors just for a basketball game," he said.

Like other French tourist sites, the tower is regularly patrolled by anti-terror troops, and the forecourt underneath the iron structure has been fenced off over terrorism fears since June 2016.

Mr Gaudillere acknowledged that the temporary security fences were "not very aesthetically pleasing", giving the monument the look of a building site, but promised the new ones would be "infinitely nicer and more romantic".

He said the building work does not appear to have dented visitor numbers, which are still expected to reach up to seven million this year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 17, 2018, with the headline 'Bulletproof walls set to protect Eiffel Tower'. Print Edition | Subscribe