Some Notre-Dame treasures saved by French firefightershttps://t.co/4h1e3ETBwl
Two irreplaceable artifacts have been rescued — the Crown of Thorns, a relic of the passion of Christ and the tunic allegedly worn by Saint Louis pic.twitter.com/3fPA3SySAR
— AFP news agency (@AFP) April 16, 2019
PARIS: Around 400 French firefighters faced a rapidly spreading fire at Notre-Dame as they arrived on the scene Monday evening, but appeared to have prevented the complete destruction of the cathedral and managed to rescue some of its priceless artifacts by rushing inside, officials said.
Dozens of fire engines and at least 18 high-pressure aerial hoses were used to contain the blaze which broke out at the Gothic masterpiece at around 6pm (1600 GMT) on Monday evening.
Several drones and a robot were also pressed into action to assess the inferno, but the idea of water-bombing planes — as suggested by US President Donald Trump — was quickly dismissed.
“It spread extremely quickly on the roof,” Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told the BFM news channel.
Wooden roof beams dating from the 12th century were to blame, but the first-responders had made “saving as many artworks as possible” a priority, Gregoire explained.
Some teams had managed to salvage an unknown quantity of its cultural treasures, he and the head of the Paris fire service said.
The Holy Crown of Thorns and a sacred tunic worn by 13th-century French king Louis, two irreplaceable artifacts, had been rescued, the cathedral rector Patrick Chauvet said.
President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the efforts of the fire service as he visited the scene, sending the “thanks on behalf of the whole nation.”
He praised their “extreme courage, their great professionalism and lots of determination by their commanders.”
– Tower at risk –
As the steeple and roof collapsed in the early evening, operations had focused on containing the inferno and preventing it spreading to the two 13th-century stone towers on the western facade.
Firefighters also worked to protect the rear of the building “where the most precious artifacts are located,” the head of the Paris fire service Jean-Claude Gallet told reporters at the scene.
He said they had been “safeguarded” without giving further details.
Around three and half hours into the vast operation, carried out under the gaze of hundreds of stunned Parisians and tourists, junior interior minister Laurent Nunez warned that one of the towers was at risk.
“If that collapses, you can imagine the scale of the damage,” he added.
But the worst appeared to have been averted.
“We can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved,” Gallet told reporters at around 11pm local time.
He said that the main task now was to cool the temperature inside the cathedral, a procedure that would take several hours.
Officials were quick to dismiss suggestions from Trump that water-bombing planes should be pressed into action.
“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!” Trump tweeted.
Nunes said that such action would have posed a “major danger” for the structure.
Assessing the damage is expected to take days.
“Obviously we fear the worst in terms of damage given the scale of the fire,” Gregoire said. – AFP
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KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Ong Lee Jye, 56, could no longer hide her feelings of relief and deep gratitude having survived the quake which hit Lombok on Sunday (March 17). [...]
Abdul Kadir’s split-second decision saved his life in the Christchurch mosque massacre. – AFP photo
As the bullets tore into worshippers during Friday prayers, taxi driver Abdul Kadir Ababora threw himself to the floor and wedged himself under a bookshelf used to hold Korans, praying he would see his wife and kids again.
Somehow that decision saved his life and he emerged from the carnage unscathed.
“It’s just a miracle,” he told AFP on Sunday as he revisited the scene. “When I woke up to the left and right of me it was just dead bodies.”
Like so many who attended weekly prayers at Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque, Ababora had come to New Zealand from a troubled overseas homeland hoping to find peace and prosperity.
The 48-year-old said he arrived from Ethiopia in 2010 and made a life for himself in the placid city of Canterbury.
Two weeks ago he and his wife celebrated the birth of their second son.
Then on Friday a self-professed white supremacist, wielding an armoury of semi-automatic rifles scrawled with racist ideology, walked into the Al Noor mosque and unleashed a rampage that left at least 50 dead and dozens more with life-changing injuries.
– Sermon then gunfire –
Ababora said the mosque’s imam had just started delivering the English translation of the khutbah — the sermon during Friday prayers — when the gunfire erupted outside.
The first person he saw struck was a Palestinian, a man who was an engineer by training but who, like Abobora, also drove a taxi in the city.
“He walked up just to see what is going on and then he saw the attacker. When he tried to run he shot him somewhere here,” Ababora recalled, pointing to his side. “I saw him falling down.”
Soon Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian police say carried out the massacre, was inside the prayer hall, pumping round after round into the defenceless worshippers.
Ababora said he instinctively fell to the ground and managed to squeeze himself against a bookshelf that held the Korans worshippers used during prayers. Crucially, it made his body a slightly smaller target.
“I just pretended as if I am dead,” he said.
Ababora said he was sickened at how methodical the killer was, firing round after round into the crumpled pile of bodies in a well-planned attack he later learned was broadcast on Facebook.
“This guy started to shoot randomly, left and right, automatic. And then he finished the first box (magazine) and then he changed it, again automatic. Then he finished the second one, he put the third box, again start automatic in the other room again.”
He could feel the shockwaves from the bullets pass by his body.
“I was waiting (for) my moment, when every second (a) shot comes I was saying ‘This is for me. This is for me’. And I lost hope,” he said.
He began to silently pray and think of his family.
– ‘Blood everywhere’ –
The horror was far from over when the gunman departed after emptying a fourth magazine before driving across town to commit a second atrocity at the Linwood mosque.
For an agonising number of minutes afterwards, no one at the Al Noor mosque dared make a sound. But as the pain got too much for the wounded, people started crying out.
The scene in front of Ababora was hellish.
“There was blood everywhere,” he said.
A friend called out, saying he had been shot in the leg. He tried to help him up but the leg was shattered by the bullet.
Ababora staggered outside to find police another worshipper — whose son is friends with his eldest son — alive but with horrific injuries. He had been shot in the jaw, his hand and his back.
It was only after laying the man down he noticed two more bodies — two women lying in a pool of blood.
“They were late comers,” he explained. “When he (the gunman) finished everyone in the mosque and he came out to escape, these ladies were late, and he shot them. Bang. Bang.”
Close by was one of the gunman’s discarded rifles and Ababora said he instantly recognised “Nazi” symbols written on it as well as historic places and dates celebrated by the far-right such as the Battle of Vienna in 1683.
“He wrote all the places where Muslims were attacked on the gun, all over the gun.”
Like most of Christchurch’s inhabitants, Ababora said he never believed such hatred would arrive on his doorstep.
“We used to say New Zealand is safe, especially in Christchurch we say we are safe, it’s a trusting system here. The Muslims here, we are the most quiet people,” he said, adding the mosques in the city don’t even broadcast the call to prayer.
“New Zealand is not safe any more,” he concluded. “This is brutal.” – AFP
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They told us that you’d have to get lost in this world to find yourself. I did exactly just that.
At 23, I couldn’t take the stress of life anymore. I was studying for a profession that I wasn’t sure I’d like; living to please parents and meet societal expectations. My heart was a dark void filled with emptiness.
Trapped and desperate, I could hang myself, or live on. Freedom was to chase my fascination of exotic places and wicked legends. I wanted to see for myself how different life could be.
Goth-inspired gloom for the dark days of depression that the reader left behind after she embarked on her solo travels. Taken in St Dunstan-in-the-East, London.
Eight years after my first major depressive episode in school, I was standing on a cliff looking down at the magnificent ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. The Peruvian summer sunlight, mingled with a billowing cool breeze, brushed my cheeks.
I was far from everyone and everything I knew, but learning to savour the sunsets and appreciating my own company.
My first solo travel experience was to Bulgaria, a small country wedged between Romania and Greece in Eastern Europe, opening out to the Black Sea. It was my final year of university, and I was so stressed out that graduating seemed impossible. The four walls of my bedroom and the tinier walls of the library cubicles imprisoned my soul. I had to go somewhere or go berserk in the rigid space.
The readers first solo trip as a rookie solo traveller in Bulgaria. It was a day trip from Sofia to the quaint town of Koprivishtitsa in the Balkan highlands when she was 22.
I had rented an Airbnb in central Sofia, in hopes of a better environment for conducive and uninterrupted studying. Rustic Sofia was cheap, and hosts a lot of eateries serving Bulgarian cuisine of savoury shropska salads, garlic yogurt zucchinis and barbecued meat. Speaking a bit of Bulgarian and exercising caution, I was surprised by the warm welcome from locals. I had a conversation with Bulgaria’s former environmental minister in a vegetarian restaurant.
On another occasion, a Bulgarian football manager sat down with me to practise his Mandarin.
Solo travel instilled in me a confidence I never knew I had. I started chatting with strangers on trains, hostel mates and tour buddies. Surprisingly, fellow travellers are always receptive to help out and make friends. By the end of the trip, I was able to chat with Chileans and joke with them in Spanish!
Interactions with people on the road also showed me different perspectives on things. On the train back to Cuzco from Machu Picchu, I met a 50-year-old American man who was taking his family all around the world. His kids “went” to school online. He wanted to show them that knowledge knows no boundaries.
In Bolivia, I met an inspiring 28-year-old German guy whose steadfastness in life went beyond his years.
I learned that age has no limitations. In Peru, I met a 64-year-old American man who left his home in Hawaii to backpack solo from Mexico to Bolivia, and beyond. He went up Machu Picchu on foot!
I was able to see the world through the eyes of various cultures too. It made me embrace different ideas and thoughts. There is not only one way to approach things.
I was determined to build my character, as well as fuel my wanderlust to truly see and experience this world. I crossed self-proclaimed independent territories like North Cyprus (Turkish side) and forlorn Soviet Transnistria (Moldova), cruised on the highest floating lake in the world (Lake Titicaca in Peru) at 4,500m above sea level and stayed with the indigenous Aymaran people in a village hut. I descended down a live mine in Potosi (Bolivia) and handed its miners dynamite bought from the market, rode horses alongside gauchos (Argenitinian cowboys) in the wild plains, gazed upon the stars in the Atacama Desert (Chile) and rode on an Amtrak train from San Francisco to Oregon, and then all the way Seattle.
Adventure fuels the empty soul. Solo travel made me alive not only by showing me the beauty of this world but by empowering me to see how far I could go. [...]