The fire that destroyed the roof of the Basilica Saint Donatien Monday is under control, but the threat of roof collapse …
A hundred firefighters were mobilized this morning, when a fire broke out on the roof of the Saint Donatien Basilica in Nantes.
The fire is now under control, say fire-fighters on site with no risk of it spreading. The flames had spread quite rapidly at just after 10 am this morning, over a large section of the roof to the rear of the Basilica.
The fire started by accident when two roofers were conducting welding on the gutters using a welding torch when the roof accidentally caught fire. They tried to extinguish the fire starting with two fire extinguishers but were unsuccessful, according to police. It is they who raised the alarm and phoned the the fire department. Shocked and exposed to smoke, they were rescued by the emergency services and received medical treatment.
Three quarters of the roof has been destroyed, a large part of the wooden structure collapsed, especially the section above the choir. The facade and bell tower have been preserved. Several stones fell inside the building, on furniture and on the altar, but the damage is light, says the priest Michel Bonnet. The objects of worship and the most outstanding works of art have been secured. The organ, however, is probably damaged. But the main concern now is regarding the stone arch of the basilica, which has suffered from the heat, the water used to extinguish the flames and structural elements that are broken. It could collapse, which would increase considerably the scale of the disaster.
A spokesman said that the Basilica will now stay under close surveillance for several days while the damage is assessed. We must first avoid any resumption of fire, as sometimes happens in this type of building. We will also secure the premises to prevent collapse. There will then be time for experts to access the damage , liability and insurance. The operations of clearing and cleaning can then commence. As for work, their duration will depend on the complexity and cost of repairs. But there are probably for several years.
Although the Basilica Saint Donatien is certainly less prestigious than St. Peter’s Cathedral, St. Donatien is still one of the two basilicas of Nantes, with Saint-Nicolas. The building is not classified as a listed building, but it is one of the most remarkable religious buildings in the city. Erected in 1871 , but actually completed in 1889, the basilica is dedicated to Saint Donatien and his brother St Rogatien, one of Nantes first Christians martyred in the late III century. For this reason, it is held in such high importance in the eyes of the Christian community.