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Ipswich councillor tells of importance of Notre Dame to her homeland

PUBLISHED: 14:44 16 April 2019 | UPDATED: 15:43 16 April 2019

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Tuesday morning after the fire. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Tuesday morning after the fire. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Among the millions watching in horror as Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned on Monday night was Ipswich councillor and French citizen Sophie Meudec.

Notre Dame Cathedral (left) seen across the River Seine in Paris and how it looked on Tuesday following a fire which destroyed much of the building on Monday evening. Pictures: Mike Egerton/Victoria Jones/PA WireNotre Dame Cathedral (left) seen across the River Seine in Paris and how it looked on Tuesday following a fire which destroyed much of the building on Monday evening. Pictures: Mike Egerton/Victoria Jones/PA Wire

She had just finished an evening of campaigning with party members as the scale of the devastation became clear.

She said: “It is just so sad. It was dreadful seeing what was happening, I was watching on my phone while we had a drink at the end of the canvassing.

“Notre Dame is so important for Paris and for all of France. It has a really important place in the nation. It is not just for those who go to church or for the religious people – it is loved by everyone.”

She had been heartened by Tuesday morning's news that the fabric of the cathedral appeared to be intact, the two iconic towers are still standing, and that officials have said it should be possible to rebuild it.

Handout image from Pompiers de Paris showing French firefighters at the scene of Monday's fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.  PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday April 15, 2019. Picture: Pompiers de Paris/PA WireHandout image from Pompiers de Paris showing French firefighters at the scene of Monday's fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday April 15, 2019. Picture: Pompiers de Paris/PA Wire

“This is something that everyone will be wanting to support. It is good that there are already offers of financial support – and there are good wishes from around the world.”

Two French business magnates have offered 300m euros between them towards the restoration of the Cathedral, and financial support is expected to come in from around the world. Oil company Total has offered a further 100m euros.

On Tuesday morning it became clear that the structure of the building was still intact although the roof and spire had been lost.

Firefighters prevented the fire from taking hold in the two huge towers that are the best-known feature of the cathedral and hold its famous bells.

Sophie Meudec. Picture: IPSWICH COUNCILSophie Meudec. Picture: IPSWICH COUNCIL

The Queen and Prince of Wales have both sent messages to French President Emmanuel Macron expressing their sadness at the fire.

The Queen and Prince Phillip praised the work of the firefighters who prevented the fire from destroying the whole building while Princes Charles' message said: “My wife and I were utterly heartbroken to learn of the terrible fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral this evening and wanted to let you know immediately how much we are thinking of yourself and the French people at this most agonising of times, and of the emergency services who are so bravely tackling the blaze.

“I realise only too well what a truly special significance the Cathedral holds at the heart of your nation; but also for us all outside France it represents one of the greatest architectural achievements of Western Civilisation.

“We send you our most profound sympathy, however inadequate that may be.

“Tres cordialement a vous.”

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