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Future of Notre Dame Still Unknown

Thursday, January 2, 2020

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According to reports late last month, the rector of Notre Dame Cathedral has said that the landmark is so fragile, that there’s a 50% chance that it might not be saved.

The Associated Press reported on Dec. 25 that the scaffolding—the removal of which began in October—is still threatening vital parts of the structure.

Background

On the evening of April 15, flames engulfed the more than 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral, destroying the spire and nearly two-thirds of the roof.

With the help of about 500 firefighters battling the blaze, the fire was brought under control by the early hours of Tuesday morning, five hours after the outbreak. Officials stated that no fatalities took place during the incident, and only one firefighter was reported to have experienced serious injuries.

There were no initial reports about what had caused the blaze, though police said at the time that it appeared to be accidental and that the cause could be linked to the ongoing 6-million-euro ($6.8 million) renovations. Since then, though, investigators have said they believe an electrical short-circuit is the culprit.

City and national officials have since been criticized for failing to fully disclose the risk of contamination as a result of 440 tons of lead roofing that had burned in the fire, which consequently sent clouds of lead particles into the air. Work was suspended for weeks over the summer, while the surrounding area underwent lead testing.

On Aug. 13, maintenance and clean-up practices commenced in Notre Dame’s 100,000-square-foot enclosed plaza and on surrounding streets.

The process involves vacuuming, scrubbing and rinsing the pavement and various surfaces using a highly pressurized water mixer combined with a special particle compound used to remove lead. The wastewater is then recovered.

On more dense surfaces like granite, workers use a special gel to coat the contaminated surface, which is left to dry for several days and is then removed, pulling out any lead particles that have become embedded in the stone.

Although environmental associations, labor unions and other groups agree that cleanup procedures should have begun months ago, new decontamination measures have been established for workers at the cathedral. Through the use of foot baths, showers and wearing of disposable uniforms, workers are both more protected and less likely to spread toxic particles outside of the plaza. Strict check-ins and check-outs have also been employed.

President Emmanuel Macron has specified that he wants the monument to be rebuilt in five years, in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics, slated to be held in Paris. To aid this goal, digital 3D scans taken by the late Andrew Tallon of New York’s Vassar College in 2015 are believed to provide the necessary information for fast-track construction.

However, before restoration efforts can begin, the melted scaffolding needs to be taken down—piece by piece.

If the scaffolding were to fall or collapse, is could reportedly put other parts of the building in jeopardy, so workers will have to first build a structure above the scaffolding that will allow them to rappel down.

Officials began taking down the 50,000 metal tubes that make up the lattice in October. While they’re dismantling the lattice, they are also install planks above and below the cathedral’s ceiling for closer examination.

What Now

“Today it is not out of danger,” said Monsignor Patrick Chauvet “It will be out of danger when we take out the remaining scaffolding.”

“Today we can say that there is maybe a 50% chance that it will be saved. There is also 50% chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, so as you can see the building is still very fragile,” he said.

Since the roof was so damaged, the report says, the surviving vaults are crucial to the integrity of the structure.

Chauvet estimated it would take another three years after that to make it safe enough for people to re-enter the cathedral, but that the full restoration will take longer.

   

Tagged categories: Churches; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Fire; Health and safety; Maintenance + Renovation; Renovation; Safety

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