Short-circuit ‘most likely cause’ of Notre Dame fire

Investigators think an electrical short-circuit was the most likely cause of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, according to a French judicial police official.

The official said investigators still do not have the green light to work in the cathedral and search in the rubble for safety reasons.

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The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris following a fire which destroyed much of the building on Monday evening.
A firefighter works at Notre-Dame Cathedral after a massive fire devastated large parts of the gothic gem in Paris, France April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Firefighters work at Notre-Dame Cathedral after a massive fire devastated large parts of the gothic gem in Paris, France April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Saved treasures from Notre-Dame Cathedral are seen in a room at Paris city hall after a massive fire devastated large parts of the gothic cathedral in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Firefighters work at Notre-Dame Cathedral after a massive fire devastated large parts of the gothic gem in Paris, France April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
View of Notre-Dame Cathedral after a fire devastated large parts of the gothic gem in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. A massive fire consumed the cathedral on Monday, gutting its roof and stunning France and the world. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Fire fighters on the roof of the bell towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris following a fire which destroyed much of the building on Monday evening.
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris following a fire which destroyed much of the building on Monday evening.
Firefighters work at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 16, 2019. A massive fire consumed the cathedral on Monday, gutting its roof and stunning France and the world. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Flames and smoke are seen as the interior continues to burn inside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool
Smoke rises around the altar in front of the cross inside the Notre Dame Cathedral as a fire continues to burn in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Fire fighters douse flames of the burning Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte walk outside the Notre Dame Cathedral where a fire continues to burn in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool
Sparks fill the air as Paris Fire brigade members spray water to extinguish flames as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Sparks fill the air as Paris Fire brigade members spray water to extinguish flames as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Paris Fire brigade members are seen at an entrance that looks into the Notre Dame Cathedral as a fire continues to burn in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Sparks fill the air as Paris Fire brigade members spray water to extinguish flames as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Fire fighters douse flames of the burning Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Sparks fill the air as Paris Fire brigade members spray water to extinguish flames as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Fire fighters douse flames of the burning Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
People pray next to Notre Dame Cathedral after it suffered heavy damage from a fire, in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Paris Fire brigade members spray water to extinguish flames as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
People pray next to Notre Dame Cathedral after it suffered heavy damage from a fire, in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
General view from the entrance shows smoke rising around the alter in front of the cross inside the Notre Dame Cathedral as a fire continues to burn in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool
Smoke rises around the alter in front of the cross inside the Notre Dame Cathedral as a fire continues to burn in Paris, France, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool
People look at Notre Dame Cathedral after it suffered heavy damage from a fire in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
A Paris Fire brigade member is seen in a doorway as he looks into the Notre Dame Cathedral as a fire continues to burn in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Smoke billows from the Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire broke out, in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Julie Carriat TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
April 15, 2019; Paris, France; People watch as the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral is on fire. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Laine/Abaca via USA TODAY NETWORK /Sipa USA
Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
French President Emmanuel Macron walks near the Notre Dame Cathedral as its burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Smoke billows from the Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire broke out, in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Julie Carriat
Smoke billows from Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire broke out, in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Smoke billows near scaffolding as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Smoke billows near scaffolding as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Smoke billows from Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire broke out, in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
People watch from a bridge as smoke billows from Notre Dame Cathedral during a fire in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
People watch from a bridge as smoke billows from Notre Dame Cathedral during a fire in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Smoke billows from Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire broke out, in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Smoke billows from Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire broke out, in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Smoke billows from Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire broke out, in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
A still image taken from a video shows flames and thick smoke billowing from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS TV/via REUTERS
Smoke billows from the Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire broke out, in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Julie Carriat
Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
People gather as firefighters spray water to extinguish flames as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris, France April 15, 2019 in this still image taken from social media video. Alexandre Brandao via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.
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He said the monument is still being consolidated with wooden planks to support some fragile parts of the walls.

The probe was taking place as France paid a day-long tribute to the Paris firefighters who saved the famous cathedral from collapse and rescued its treasures.

The tributes came as construction workers rushed to secure an area above one of the church's famed rose-shaped windows and other vulnerable sections of the fire-damaged landmark.

President Emmanuel Macron held a ceremony at the Elysee Palace to thank the hundreds of firefighters who battled the fast-moving fire at Notre Dame for nine hours, preventing the structure's destruction and rescuing many of the important relics held inside.

Emmanuel Macron at the cathedral on Monday
Emmanuel Macron at the cathedral on Monday (Philippe Wojazer/AP)

"We've seen before our eyes the right things perfectly organised in a few moments, with responsibility, courage, solidarity and a meticulous organisation", Mr Macron said. "The worst has been avoided."

Mr Macron said the firefighters will receive a medal for their courage and devotion.

The huge cathedral, including the spire that was consumed by flames and collapsed, was in the initial stages of a lengthy restoration.

The roof was destroyed, but Notre Dame's famous bell towers, rose windows, organ, and precious artworks were saved.

Fire officials warned that the building remains very fragile and extremely dangerous for construction workers, restoration experts and neighbours.

Tackling the blaze on Monday evening
Tackling the blaze on Monday evening (Francois Mori/AP)

Police, citing "important risks" of collapse and falling objects, officially closed a large swathe of the island in the Seine River on which Notre Dame sits. The area had been unofficially blocked off since the fire.

Workers using a crane were removing some statues to lessen the weight on the cathedral's fragile gables, or support walls, and to keep them from falling, since the section lacked the support of the massive timber roof that burned in the devastating blaze.

They were also securing the support structure above one of Notre Dame's rose windows with wooden planks.

Aerial view of the damage
Aerial view of the damage (Gigarama.ru/AP)

Remarkably, no one was killed in the fire, which began during a Mass, after firefighters and church officials speedily evacuated those inside.

Among the firefighters honoured was Paris fire brigade chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who said he was falsely credited with helping salvage the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion.

The chaplain said a team of rescuers broke the relic's protective covering and an official who had the secret code to unlock the protection finished the job.

Among others honoured was Myriam Chudzinski, one of the first firefighters to reach the roof as the blaze raged.

Loaded with gear, they climbed hundreds of steps up the cathedral's narrow spiral staircase to the top of one of the two towers. She had trained at the site for hours for just this moment.

FIRE NotreDame
(PA Graphics)

"We knew that the roof was burning, but we didn't really know the intensity," she told reporters. "It was from upstairs that you understood that it was really dramatic. It was very hot and we had to retreat, retreat. It was spreading quickly."

Investigators so far believe the fire was accidental, and are questioning both cathedral staff and workers who were carrying out renovations. Some 40 people had been questioned by Thursday, according to the Paris prosecutor's office.

The building would have burned to the ground in a "chain-reaction collapse" had firefighters not moved as rapidly as they did to battle the blaze racing through the building, said José Vaz de Matos, a fire expert with France's Culture Ministry.

Mr Macron wants to rebuild the cathedral within five years — in time for the 2024 summer Olympics that Paris is hosting — but experts say the vast scale of the work to be done could easily take 15 years, since it will take months, even years, just to figure out what should be done.

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