The Notre Dame Cathedral is still so fragile that the rector for the Paris monument says there's a "50% chance" they won't be able to save the building. Scaffolding that was installed before this year's fire is "threatening the vaults of the Gothic monument," according to AP.
Describing his "heartache" over the fact that the Notre Dame couldn't hold Christmas services, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet said that restoration work isn't scheduled to begin until 2021.
Chauvet said: “Today it is not out of danger. It will be out of danger when we take out the remaining scaffolding. Today we can say that there is maybe a 50% chance that it will be saved. There is also 50% chance of scaffolding falling onto the three vaults, so as you can see the building is still very fragile.”
Notre Dame was already in the midst of renovations when the accidental fire broke out in April. The fire crippled the building's roof and collapsed its spire. With no roof left, the cathedral's vaults are "crucial" to keeping it standing, but they are vulnerable.
50,000 tubes of scaffolding were layered at the back of the cathedral during the fire. Some of which have been damaged and there has been discussions about how to remove them without causing further damage to the building.
Chauvet continued: “We need to remove completely the scaffolding in order to make the building safe, so in 2021 we will probably start the restoration of the cathedral. Once the scaffolding is removed we need to assess the state of the cathedral, the quantity of stones to be removed and replaced.”
He estimates it could take another three years before the building is safe enough for people to re-enter. The full restoration could take even longer, he says. President Emmanuel Macron has targeted 2024, to have the building finished before Paris hosts the Olympic games. Experts have questioned whether that time frame is possible, however.
The fire has also released tons of toxic lead dust and authorities are still weighing the potential health hazard.
It is estimated that over 2 million people from around the world still visited the cathedral during the holiday season. Tourists can still photograph the building from nearby embankments, but they can no longer hear its organs or go inside. Its congregation is instead holding Christmas celebrations at the Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois Church across from the Louvre Museum.
One parishioner said: “I remember my mother told me that she was watching TV, and that there was a fire at Notre Dame. I told her ‘it’s not possible,’ and I took my bike, and when I arrived I was crying. We are French, we are going to try to rebuild Notre Dame as it was before, because it is a symbol.”