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Business owners have offered millions to restore the devastated Notre Dame cathedral after the fire

Business owners have offered millions to restore the devastated Notre Dame cathedral after the fire

Business owners have offered millions to restore the devastated Notre Dame cathedral after the fire

Pledges of support from some of the world's wealthiest people poured in yesterday, as France vowed to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

In the wake of Monday's devastating inferno, business owners and stars have been offering millions of euro to restore the 850-year-old building to its original glory.

French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, husband of actress Salma Hayek, whose luxury brands include Gucci and Saint Laurent, has pledged €100m.

Mr Pinault, who is the head of Kering, announced on his company's Twitter account that his family will contribute the "funds needed to fully rebuild Notre Dame de Paris, in order to bring this jewel of our heritage back to life as soon as possible".

The billionaires behind luxury giants LVMH Group, Kering and L'Oreal pledged a combined €500m.

And Bernard Arnault, one of the world's richest men, is donating €200m to fund the cathedral's reconstruction.

Generous

The businessman (70) is the head of LVMH, a massive company with 70 worldwide brands under its umbrella, including Louis Vuitton, Sephora and Marc Jacobs.

The Paris-based company announced its generous contribution via Twitter.

Cosmetics company L'Oreal announced that the Bettencourt Meyers family and the L'Oreal Group will donate €100m.

Other French companies have also written big cheques.

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Francois-Henri Pinault, his wife Salma Hayek and his billionaire father Francois Pinault said they were immediately giving 100 million euros from their company, Artemis, to help finance repairs to fire damaged Notre Dame cathedral

Francois-Henri Pinault, his wife Salma Hayek and his billionaire father Francois Pinault said they were immediately giving 100 million euros from their company, Artemis, to help finance repairs to fire damaged Notre Dame cathedral

AP

Francois-Henri Pinault, his wife Salma Hayek and his billionaire father Francois Pinault said they were immediately giving 100 million euros from their company, Artemis, to help finance repairs to fire damaged Notre Dame cathedral

The oil and gas company, Total, has promised €100m, while tech and consulting firm Capgemini will give €1m.

Combined with other donations from companies including French bank Credit Agricole, the total amount pledged by business and wealthy donors has reached more than €600m.

Experts say the combination of a structure that is more than 800 years old, built with heavy timber construction and soaring open spaces, and lacking sophisticated fire-protection systems led to the quick rise of flames on Monday, which jeopardised the entire cathedral before firefighters brought the blaze under control.

"Very often when you're confronted with something like this, there's not much you can do," said Glenn Corbett, a professor of fire science at John Jay College in New York.

Firehoses seemed to be ineffective as flames raged across the cathedral's wooden roof and burned bright orange for hours.

The fire toppled the 300ft spire and launched baseball-sized embers into the air.

While the cause remains under investigation, authorities said that the cathedral's structure - including its landmark rectangular towers - has been saved.

Some of the factors that made Notre Dame a must-see for visitors to Paris, including its age, sweeping size and French Gothic design featuring masonry walls and tree trunk-sized wooden beams, also made it a tinderbox and a difficult place to fight a fire, said US fire administrator Keith Bryant.

"With a building like that, it's nearly impossible for firefighters to attack a fire from within. Instead, they have to be more defensive and try to control the fire from the exterior", he said.

"When a fire gets that well-involved, it is very difficult to put enough water on it to cool it to bring it under control.

"And while there's a lot of water right next door at the Seine River, getting it to the right place is the problem.

"There are just not enough resources in terms of fire apparatus, hoses to get that much water on a fire that's that large.

"Because of narrower streets, which make it difficult to manoeuvre large-ladder fire trucks, European fire departments don't tend to have as large ladders as they do in the United States," he said.

In an address to the nation last night, French President Emmanuel Macron set a target of five years for the cathedral to be rebuilt.

After thanking emergency services and donors he said: "In our history, we have built cities, harbours, churches. Many have burned or been destroyed, by wars, revolutions, men's faults. Every time we rebuilt them."