Two French billionaires have pledged to donate a total of 300 million euros to help reconstruct the Notre Dame Cathedral after a catastrophic fire tore through the historic structure, collapsing its spire, and causing significant damage, news agencies reported.
Their donations came as Paris firefighters declared Tuesday morning that “the entire fire is out”.
“A group of experts are analyzing all of the structures to establish the next stages,” Paris fire brigade spokesperson Gabriel Plus told reporters, quoted in a report by BuzzFeedNews.
François-Henri Pinault, chair and CEO of the international luxury group Kering, which includes Gucci and Saint Laurent, said Monday night he and his family will donate 100 million euros to the cathedral's reconstruction.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the businessman, who is also president of holding company Groupe Artémis, which owns the fine arts auction house Christie's, wrote: “My father [François Pinault] and I have decided to release as of now from the funds of Artemis a sum of 100 million euros to participate in the effort that will be necessary for the complete reconstruction of Notre Dame.”
His donation was doubled on Tuesday morning by Bernard Arnault, chair and CEO of luxury goods group LVMH, whose brands include Moët & Chandon and Dior.
“In the wake of this national tragedy, the Arnault family and the LVMH Group pledge their support for Notre Dame. They will donate a total of 200 million euros to the fund for reconstruction of this architectural work, which is an integral part of the history of France,” read a statement posted on the LVMH Twitter account.
French President Emmanuel Macron said late Monday that he planned to launch a national fundraising campaign to rebuild the centuries-old cathedral.
“We will rebuild,” Macron told reporters. “We will rebuild Notre Dame because this is what the French expect, because this is what our history deserves, because it is our destiny.”
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, called on the EU's member states to contribute to its reconstruction.
Two police officers and a firefighter suffered light injuries tackling the fire, the Paris fire brigade tweeted Tuesday morning. It said that nearly 400 firefighters took part in a 9-hour effort to combat the flames.
“The structure of the cathedral is saved, and the main artworks have been safeguarded, thanks to the combined actions of different state services,” it said.
In its more than 800-year history, Notre Dame has undergone extensive and costly restorations to repair and restore one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.
When the fire broke out, the spire was being restored as part of a multimillion-dollar renovation to repair water damage to the wooden structure.
In recent years, cathedral officials have sought private funding to buttress the funds the French state dedicates to its upkeep through the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris foundation.
Afghan politicians also reacted to the incident and said they felt sad about it.
“Notre-Dame, a world monument, a French sentiment, went through the pain of fire last night. I felt as sad as when the Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed,” former President Hamid Karzai said in a statement.
“The damage to Notre Dame due to fire is a loss to world heritage. France has been a long-standing partner in discovery and rehabilitation of historic monuments in Afghanistan. We share France’s agony and hope for Notre-Dame’s full restoration soon,” Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said.