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Stones fell from damaged Notre Dame ceiling amid heatwave

World News | Published:

Officials said temperatures of about 42C in Paris in July quickly dried out the mortar holding ceiling stones in place.

Notre Dame

French officials have said several stones fell from the vaulted ceiling of the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral after last month’s heatwave.

The French ministry of culture urged renewed stabilisation efforts to prevent further damage after revealing the stones fell following temperatures of a record 42.6C in Paris in late July.

It said the heat quickly dried out the mortar holding ceiling stones in place and apparently played a role.

Notre Dame
The Paris cathedral was badly damaged in a massive fire in April (Francois Mori/AP)

The damage is “not serious” but the 12th-century cathedral remains at risk of possible collapse, the official said.

The vaulted ceiling is particularly fragile after the April fire destroyed the massive lead and wood roof that kept the overall structure stable.

The ceiling vaults are also among the many features that make Notre Dame a treasure of world heritage and testament to medieval ingenuity.

The chief architect of France’s historic monuments warned last month about the danger from exceptional heat to the water-logged masonry.

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After three months of painstaking work to clear out hazardous debris and shore up the building, regional authorities suspended all activity inside the cathedral last month over concerns about lead contamination.

Currently only a few select security officials and experts are allowed on the site, notably to monitor activity such as the falling stones, the ministry said.

Notre Dame
Lead contamination fears have halted work to shore up the fire-damaged Notre Dame (Francois Mori/AP)

The official urged work to be resumed as soon as possible to secure and clean-up the cathedral to prepare it for a costly, lengthy reconstruction.

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But the risk of lead poisoning also remains.

Activists and residents accuse authorities of underestimating the danger after hundreds of tons of lead melted in the fire, spewing toxic dust into the Paris air.

Authorities have launched three main lead prevention operations: cleaning up local schools, de-toxifying surrounding streets, and setting up a stricter new decontamination zone for experts working inside the cathedral.

That zone is expected to be ready next week, and is aimed at ensuring workers inside the cathedral do not track pollution outside the work zone.

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