Paris, France, Jun 27, 2019 / 10:28 am (CNA).- An initial investigation into the devastating fire that consumed much of Notre-Dame cathedral in April has found no signs of criminal action behind the blaze, French officials said Wednesday.
Chief Prosecutor of Paris Remy Heitz said in a statement that the investigations so far have not been able to pinpoint a cause of the fire but have found no evidence that it was deliberate, the BBC reported. “Deeper investigations” will be carried out, he said.
Officials conducted 100 witness hearings in the initial stage of their investigation, according to CNN. They will now consider the possibility of negligence – including electrical malfunction or a poorly extinguished cigarette – as a cause for the fire.
Shortly before 7 p.m. on April 15, a fire broke out in the iconic Gothic cathedral in Paris. The roof and the spire, which dated to the 19th century, were destroyed. Shortly after midnight April 16, firefighters announced that the cathedral’s main structure had been preserved from collapse.
Major religious and artistic treasures of the cathedral were removed as the fire began, including a relic of the crown of thorns.
Originally built between the twelfth through fourteenth centuries, the landmark cathedral in the French capital is one of the most recognizable churches in the world, receiving more than 12 million visitors each year.
The cathedral was undergoing some restorative work at the time the fire broke out. Officials had been in the process of a massive fundraising effort to renovate the cathedral against centuries of decay, pollution, and an inundation of visitors. French conservationists and the archdiocese announced in 2017 that the renovations needed for the building’s structural integrity could cost as much as $112 million to complete.
Last month the French Senate passed a bill mandating that Notre-Dame be rebuilt as it was before the fire. President Emmanuel Macron had previously called for “an inventive reconstruction” of the cathedral.
Since the adoption of the 1905 law on separation of church and state, which formalized laïcité (a strict form of public secularism), religious buildings in France have been considered property of the state.
More than one billion dollars has been raised for the restoration effort.
The first Mass since the fire was celebrated at the cathedral June 15.