‘Major fire’ damages cathedral in French city of Nantes; arson suspected

French firefighters battle a blaze at the Cathedral of Saint Pierre and Saint Paul in Nantes, France, Jul 18, 2020.

PARIS: A blaze that broke inside the gothic cathedral in the French city of Nantes on Saturday (Jul 18) has been contained, emergency officials said, adding that the damage was not comparable to last year’s fire at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.

“The damage is concentrated on the organ, which seems to be completely destroyed. It’s platform is very unstable and could collapse,” regional fire chief General Laurent Ferlay told a press briefing in front of Cathedral of Saint Pierre and Saint Paul.

He told reporters that 104 firemen were at the site to ensure the blaze was completely under control.

The fire broke out behind the grand organ, which was completely destroyed, he said. Stained glassed windows at the front of the cathedral were blown out.

However, the damage was not as bad as initially feared.

“We are not in a Notre-Dame de Paris scenario. The roof has not been touched,” Ferlay said.

French firefighters work at the scene of a blaze at the Cathedral of Saint Pierre and Saint Paul in Nantes, France, July 18, 2020.

ARSON SUSPECTED

Officials said they suspected arson and that an investigation had been opened.

Prosecutor Pierre Sennes told reporters three fires had been started at the site and authorities were treating the incident as a criminal act. He gave no other details.

Earlier, firemen were battling a fire that broke out on Saturday morning inside the cathedral in the western French city of Nantes, the local fire service said on Twitter.

Smoke was still coming out of the Gothic structure later on Saturday morning.

“The fire is not under control, it is advancing. It is a major fire,” the emergency operations centrehad said about the fire there.

It added that crews were alerted just before 8am (0600 GMT) and that 60 firefighters had been dispatched.

TV images showed smoke coming out of the 15th century structure. The blaze comes just over a year after a major fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, which destroyed its main spire.

“After Notre-Dame, the St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral is in flames. Support to the firemen who are taking all the risks to save the Gothic jewel,” President Emmanuel Macron tweeted from Brussels, where he was attending an EU summit.

Prime Minister Jean Castex and the culture and interior ministers were due to visit the scene later in the day.

“I want to know what happened even if it’s very early,” Castex told reporters.

“I AM SHOOK UP”

Cecile Renaud, who works in a bakery facing the cathedral and alerted the fire services early on Saturday, told BFM TV she had seen huge flames inside the building.

“It was a huge shock. It’s extremely sad.”

Jean-Yves Burban, who runs a newsagent facing the cathedral, said he had opened his business and heard a bang at around 7.30am. He went outside to see huge flames coming from the building.

“I am shook up because I’ve been here eight years and I see the cathedral every morning and evening,” he told Reuters. “It’s our cathedral and I’ve got tears in my eyes.”

French firefighters battle a blaze at the Cathedral of Saint Pierre and Saint Paul in Nantes, France, Jul 18, 2020.

It is not the first time the cathedral has caught fire. It was partly destroyed during World War II in 1944 after Allied bombings. In 1972 a fire completely ravaged its roof. It was finally rebuilt 13 years later.

“The fire of 1972 is in our minds, but at this stage the simulation is not comparable,” Nantes Mayor Johanna Rolland told reporters.

In 2015, a fire that appeared to have been caused by renovation work destroyed most of the roof of another church in Nantes, the Saint Donatien Basilica.

Z24 News

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