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Notre Dame now stabilized

Architects and construction workers have now stabilized the damaged structure of Notre Dame cathedral, four days after a fast-spreading fire ravaged the iconic Paris building, and firefighters will leave the site Friday night, a fire brigade spokesman said.

"There is no more risk the edifice's walls could fall down," Lt. Col. Gabriel Plus told The Associated Press, adding that firefighters have been able to cool down the walls and debris from the roof inside the cathedral.

"It's a miracle that the cathedral is still standing, and that all the relics were saved," he said.

Earlier, the cathedral's rector said a "computer glitch" may have been behind the rapidly spreading blaze that devastated the 850-year-old architectural masterpiece.

Rector Patrick Chauvet did not elaborate on the exact nature of the glitch. "We may find out what happened in two or three months," he told a meeting of local business leaders.

The fire burned through the network of enormous centuries-old oak beams supporting the monument's vaulted stone ceiling, dangerously weakening the building. The surrounding neighbourhood was blocked off as stones continued to tumble off the sides of the cathedral after Monday evening's devastating blaze.

On Thursday, Paris police investigators said they believe an electrical short-circuit most likely caused the fire.

The Parisien newspaper has reported that a computer glitch might have misdirected firefighters responding to the initial fire alarm. The unsourced report said investigators are also looking into whether the fire was linked to temporary elevators being used in a renovation that was underway at the time the cathedral caught fire. Chauvet said there were fire alarms throughout the building, which he described as "well protected."

Charlotte Hubert, president of a group of French architects who specialize in historic monuments, told BFM television that experts plan to spread a custom-made peaked tarpaulin across the cathedral's roof, with enough space to also shield workers rebuilding the frame.

As Catholics carried out the Way of the Cross ritual near the cathedral to mark Good Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron met with officials from the United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO. UNESCO representatives have offered their technical expertise to help with the reconstruction.

Macron is moving quickly on the fire-ravaged monument's reconstruction, which is being viewed both as a push to make it part of his legacy and a way to move past the divisive yellow vest protests over social inequality in France.

Notre Dame's reconstruction is prompting widespread debate across France, with differing views over whether it should involve new technologies and designs. Macron's office has, for example, said the president wants a "contemporary architectural gesture to be considered" for the collapsed 19th-century spire, which wasn't part of the original cathedral.

Over $1 billion has already poured in from people from all walks of life around the world to restore Notre Dame.



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