Milestone for Notre-Dame church in Paris as fire-damaged scaffolding cleared

Workers in a crane nacelle work to remove the burnt scaffolding at the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, on Nov 24, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Reconstruction of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris reached a turning point Tuesday (Nov 24) with the removal of the last portions of scaffolding that melted during last year's blaze, which will allow crucial protective and stabilisation work to proceed.

The delicate work was begun in June to clear away the tons of tangled tubes that were surrounding the church's spire when it collapsed as millions of people watched in horror on April 15, 2019.

The spire and other parts of the roof were undergoing renovation work when the fire erupted, threatening to destroy the 13th-century gothic landmark.

But while the monument's walls remained standing, the extensive heat and loss of much of the oak roof framework compromised their structural integrity.

The mass of molten scaffolding - some 40,000 tubes weighing 200 tonnes, suspended dozens of metres above the cathedral's floor - also risked crashing to the ground.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot, accompanied by Jean-Louis Georgelin, the army general overseeing the restoration, were on hand as the final pieces were removed.

"The threat this scaffolding posed to the cathedral has been lifted," Georgelin said. "Now we can tackle the final safeguarding steps."

Before removing the damaged tubes, they had to be enclosed in a new network of scaffolding to ensure they would not move. Another metal grid was then erected so that workers could be lowered by ropes to carefully cut the tubes apart.

Sections were then lifted out the crane towering 80 metres over the cathedral, and late October workers were finally able to reach and stabilise a massive beam that threatened to drop into the transept.

The renovation work has been slowed by delays due to bad weather, concerns over lead pollution, and most recently the coronavirus pandemic.

In July, President Emmanuel Macron said the spire would be rebuilt to its original form, in a change of heart after previously calling for a "contemporary" touch.

He has vowed to have Notre-Dame rebuilt in five years, though some architects have warned that such a massive undertaking could take much longer.

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