Catholic La Croix says “The heart is ashes,” perhaps a reference to the centre of Paris, certainly a glance at the penitential period of Lent, which opened six weeks ago with Ash Wednesday and will come to an end in a week’s time on Easter Sunday.
Le Monde’s headline reads “Notre-Dame, our history”. The paper maintained a detailed web service all night, answering readers’ questions, publishing photos, up-dating information.
Le Figaro goes for the simple “Disaster”, with an editorial headlined “Our Lady of the Sorrows”.
Libération chooses a word-play which has been repeated on several regional front pages, transforming “Notre-Dame” into “Notre-Drame,” our tragedy.
The normally sober business paper Les Echos also goes for “Paris tragedy”.
Since the French capital has seen several terrible human dramas over recent years, it is probably worth mentioning that, mercifully, after nine hours in which 400 firefighters were involved in the struggle to control the blaze, just one fireman and two police officers are reported slightly injured.
And in the international papers . . .
El Païs in Madrid leads with “The flames devastate a symbol of European culture”.
The Times in London had to go to print while “The battle to save Notre Dame” was still in progress.
The neighbours north of the border may have gone a bit over the top, with the Belgique Libre daily announcing that “Paris is no longer Paris”.
The Washington Post immediately dispatched a correspondent to Paris. He discovered the inhabitants of the capital gathered on the opposite side of the Seine, praying, crying and seeking brotherly communion. He’ll be better after a few hours sleep.
What are the papers saying on inside pages?
Popular tabloid Le Parisien notes that police investigators are working on the assumption of a tragic accident, probably linked in some way to the repair work which was in progress on the roof.
One expert points out that old wooden structures are giant matchboxes, with accumulations of dust between disintegrating supports.
It is possible, according to the same specialist, that a spark from the soldering which has been in progress in recent days as part of the effort to re-seal the lead roof-covering, could have smoldered for hours, even days, before starting the blaze.
As for the security systems, they worked perfectly, alarms announcing the fire at 18H30.
But there is no sprinkler system in the cathedral, no more than in the majority of French public monuments, simply because the heritage authorities believe that the dangers posed by such systems, in terms of leaks or accidental activation, far outweigh the potential security benefits.
As for the on-going investigation, at least forty members of the Paris criminal brigade have already opened their enquiry. Ten people have been questioned. A list of experts has been compiled, including fire prevention and structural engineers. They will be called upon, as necessary, as the investigation continues.