Uncertainty over time needed to rebuild Notre-Dame

The first and second richest men in France are still slugging it out through cultural capital

"Following the fire that ravaged much of Notre-Dame Cathedral, I share in your sadness, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris, and all the French people", the pope said in a letter addressed to Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit.

The Vatican's culture minister has offered words of hope to France following the devastating fire at Notre Dame, saying the cathedral is a "living creature" that has been reborn before and will continue to be the "beating heart" of France.

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to rebuild the site, saying Monday that France will launch an global fundraising campaign to assist with the effort. "That's a joke", an indignant Lang told AFP outside the cathedral on Tuesday.

Stephane Bern, a TV presenter famous for his programs on medieval France who was recently appointed the government's representative on heritage, estimated the rebuilding would take "10 to 20 years minimum".

Noting the restoration of Reims cathedral which was bombarded by German forces during World War I took decades, Bern, 55, told French radio: "It will be rebuilt for future generations".

In a sign of the scale of the challenge, France's top producer of oak said it was anxious about the stock of oak available to rebuild the gutted wooden interior of the nave's roof.

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The first 24-48 hours were crucial to protecting the stone and wood structure from water damage and assessing the next steps, she said, warning that parts of the cathedral remain "extremely fragile", notably hundreds of tons of scaffolding around the spire that collapsed.

As pledges of donations flooded in from around the world, the city of Paris and private individuals, Italy, Russia and Germany offered to send expert help.

Billionaires and local governments pledged almost 500 million euros on April 16 to help restore Notre-Dame cathedral, with foundations and crowd-sourcing sites also launching fund-raising drives.

"We stand ready to offer any United Kingdom experience and expertise that could be helpful in the work that lies ahead to restore this magnificent cathedral".

The largest donation announced Tuesday was from LVMH Group, which owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Givenchy.

Businessman Francois-Henri Pinault, who is married to Salma Hayek, and his billionaire father Francois Pinault also said they were immediately giving 100 million euros from their company, Artemis, to help finance repairs. Kering brands include Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. Tech and consulting firm Capgemini has promised €1 million ($1.1 million).

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