In the wake of the devastating fire which ravaged large parts of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, it has been revealed a fire alarm rang out for 23 minutes before the fire was detected.
Paris public prosecutor Remy Heitz said an initial fire alert sounded at 6.20pm (local time) on Monday, but no fire was found.
The second alert sounded at 6.43pm before the blaze was finally discovered on the roof.
Mr Heitz said his office was “favouring the theory of an accident”, but had assigned 50 people to work on what he believed would be a “long” and “complex” investigation.
“We are in the process of interviewing witnesses,” he said.
Investigators have already questioned nearly 30 people, a Paris judicial police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to comment on an ongoing probe.
At least five companies were working on the restorations.
“Notre Dame has survived the revolutionary history of France and this happened during building works,” influential former Culture Minister Jack Lang said.
Paris reflects after day of devastation
News that the fire was probably accidental has done nothing to ease the national mourning for the symbol of national pride.
Hundreds of people gathered for a vigil prayer across the Seine from the cathedral, singing and listening to music played by a string quartet.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said there were still some risks to the structure and the cathedral was “under permanent surveillance because it can still budge.”
A plan to safeguard the masterpieces and relics was quickly put into action after the fire broke out.
The Crown of Thorns, regarded as Notre Dame’s most sacred relic, was among the treasures quickly transported when the blaze was discovered, Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said.
Brought to Paris by King Louis IX in the 13th century, it is purported to have been pressed onto Christ’s head during the crucifixion.
Also saved was the tunic of St. Louis – a long, shirt-like garment from the 13th century, Culture Minister Franck Riester said.
There were at least five companies working in the cathedral’s roof on restoration works who were likely to be quizzed.
The blaze reportedly started in the roof based on the damage.
More than 600 million euros has been pledged to restore the ancient structure.
While President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild Notre Dame within five years, building experts have said it could take at least 15 years to fully restore the cathedral.
– With AP
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