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Fashion billionaires pledge millions to restore Paris Notre-Dame cathedral

ParisFrance, Apr 16 – Pledges to donate millions of euros in cash and materials poured in Tuesday in the aftermath of a massive fire at the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, which firefighters were still fighting to extinguish more than 12 hours after it started.

President Emmanuel Macron has vowed the emblematic church will be rebuilt after its spire and roof collapsed Monday night in a blaze thought to be linked to extensive renovation work.

French billionaire Bernard Arnault announced Tuesday that he and the LVMH luxury conglomerate he controls would give 200 million euros ($226 million) for the reconstruction efforts.

The pledge came after Arnault’s crosstown rival Kering, the fashion group founded by fellow billionaire Francois Pinault, offered 100 million euros to help “completely rebuild Notre-Dame”.

The privately run French Heritage Foundation has already launched a call for donations to help restore a “symbol of French history and culture.”

Valerie Pecresse, president of the Ile-de-France region comprising the greater Paris region, said it would provide 10 million euros.

And the head of a French lumber company told FranceInfo radio that it was ready to offer the best oak beams available to rebuild the intricate lattice that supported the now-destroyed roof, known as the “Forest”.

“The work will surely take years, decades even, but it will require thousands of cubic metres of wood. We’ll have to find the best specimens, with large diameters,” Sylvain Charlois of the Charlois group in Murlin, central France, told the radio.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Tuesday proposed organising an international donor conference to coordinate the pledges to restore the gothic architectural masterpiece.

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The United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO has also promised to stand “at France’s side” to restore the site, which it declared a world heritage site in 1991.

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