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Notre Dame de Paris. Photo supplied

Huge loss for France as iconic 850- year old Notre Dame embers smolder

The origin of the gigantic fire, which devastated the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral on Monday, is still unknown, but an investigation was opened for "involuntary destruction by fire," announced the Paris prosecutor's office in the evening.

Published: April 16, 2019, 11:09 am

    It may not have been an accidental fire that started from the current construction site on the roof of the cathedral but all leads will be followed by “investigators during investigation,” a source close to the police file told AFP.

    The investigators began on the night of Monday to Tuesday to collect the testimonies of the people who worked on the site of the cathedral. The investigations were entrusted to the Regional Directorate of the Judicial Police.

    A fire broke out in the attic of the building, before spreading very quickly to a large part of the roof. It seems to have gone to the level of scaffolding installed on the roof of the building. The flames devoured the frame, more than 100 meters long.

    On Tuesday morning, firefighters announced that the fire was “completely under control” and “partially extinguished”, while adding that only “residual fires” remained active.

    When a French government official tried to raise the possibility of arson on Fox News, host Shepard Smith shut down the interview immediately and refused to speculate on the cause of the fire. “I would tell you something, even if nobody died, it’s like a 9/11, the French 9/11,” French official Philippe Karsenty said of the historic cathedral’s burning on Monday.

    Karsenty explained the routine Islamic attacks against churches throughout France, and said the media was spreading a “politically correct” narrative before being suddenly cut off by Smith.

    But the idea that the burning of Notre Dame might be related to previous attacks has been pervasive after people reacted to the devastating fire on Facebook with smiley-face emojis.

    Daniel Hamiche, a French Catholic journalist and writer in 2018 had told Le Parisien about the deliberate contamination of holy water in the stoups. A stoup is a basin or font of holy water that Christian worshippers dip their fingers in.

    “It is rather common that imbeciles or villains pollute the stoups in churches — in my own parish one Sunday, a couple of years ago, I had to clean a stoup whose sacred water was dyed red,” Hamiche said.

    Last year, a team of police from the police station of the 4th arrondissement of Paris arrived at the île de la Cité, where the Notre-Dame de Paris is situated, after mass to investigate.

    On Friday, August 10, Catholic tourists, who came to pray at Notre-Dame, were allegedly poisoned by holy water. “They complained about burning around their faces after crossing themselves with the water from the stoups, at the entrance of the church,” according to the police source.

    They also suffered from headaches. A Church representative, worried, went to the police station of the 4th arrondissement, responsible for the area where Notre-Dame is located, in order to report the incident.

    The incident was however not reported in mainstream media at the time.

    A priest confirmed the incident: “It was above all very smelly, the water.” He added while looking towards the sky: “What can you do! It’s unfortunately an evil act. They want to poison everyone!”

    Finally, after an investigation, the investigators from the police station of the 4th arrondissement concluded the absence of imminent danger. No complaint was filed, and no official investigation was opened. It appears that the stoups had been contaminated with fecal matter.

    In Notre-Dame, it was decided, per security measures, to empty the water from the stoups and to bleach them. The stone basins was completely cleaned and filled with fresh water.

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