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Officials began inspecting the damage of Notre Dame Tuesday. They declared the cathedral structurally sound while identifying “some vulnerabilities,” according to French Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez. Specifically, the vault and gable of the north transept were of concern. Inspectors are also worried about structural damage that may be hidden.
Kirk Martini, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Architecture with a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley in structural engineering, said the transept is probably the greatest vulnerability. To ensure the structure is stable, additional shoring may be necessary after the full extent of the damage is assessed.
Limestone is a key building element of the structure, and stone is susceptible to damage from heat and water. “There may have been some damage to the stone, even the places that currently appear to be intact . . . because of the weaknesses of the material,” Martini said. “That’s a big unknown. . . . I don’t think anybody knows the extent of that damage.”
French President Emmanuel Macron hopes the country can rebuild Notre Dame within five years. With the scale of the project, Martini is skeptical that timeline will be met, even with the number of resources being promised for restoration. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been pledged for the rebuilding efforts.
How the cathedral will be restored is also up for debate. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced an international competitionto replace the iconic spire that collapsed into Monday’s blaze.