Jul 17, 2019

Notre Dame was on the brink of collapse during April fire

Notre Dame reconstruction in May. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

Notre Dame Cathedral was near collapse as firefighters risked their lives to control the destructive fire in April, further developments and analysis by the New York Times show.

Why it matters: If the fire had spread for much longer, the bell tower and the floor beneath the firefighters would have caved in and destroyed the 850-year-old building.

Reports indicated that during the 4-hour blaze, French officials feared the church would be unsalvageable.

What could have gone wrong: The Times combed through hundreds of documents and conducted extensive interviews.

  • If the beams holding up 8 giant bells had collapsed, they could have acted "like wrecking balls," destroying the tower.
  • Nearly a dozen firefighters were at risk of the floor giving out from under them as they tried to contain the flames.
  • The church's spire came crashing down and broke several stone vaults of the nave.
  • The intricate lattice woodwork in the attic known as "the forest" was ravaged.

French authorities are still investigating how the fire started and what was to blame. Historians told the Times that Notre Dame's blaze was inevitable due to a complicated fire warning system and poor historic preservation oversight.

  1. The church's fire alarm system was so complex that it caused the newly hired security guard to check the wrong building adjacent to the church instead of the attic.
  2. Firefighters arrived after being called roughly 30 minutes after the "first red signal lit up the word 'Feu,'" explains the Times.

The bottom line: Several reports indicated the structure's survival was a miracle. That was "due solely to the enormous risks taken by firefighters in those third and fourth hours," per the Times.

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Lutheran denomination claims it is the first "sanctuary church body"

An undocumented mother of four stands in the First Unitarian Society Church in Colorado in 2017, after taking refuge to avoid ICE officers. Photo: Chris Schneider/AFP/Getty Images

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., announced Wednesday that it had voted to become a "sanctuary church body" for undocumented immigrants, claiming to be the first North American denomination to do so.

What it means: Sanctuary cities and counties, the most frequently designated areas to dub themselves as "sanctuaries," "generally describe places that limit how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration agents," per the New York Times.

Go deeperArrowAug 9, 2019

New York opens yearlong window for victims to file past abuse claims

An activist with sign denouncing the Catholic Church's alleged lack of response to the abuse of children by clergy. Photo: Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

More than 400 child sexual abuse lawsuits were filed in New York Wednesday, as the state started accepting cases previously barred by the statute of limitations, AP reports.

Why it matters: Institutions that have long cared for children, like the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, public school districts and hospitals, are girding for what could be a devastating financial blow. All such institutions were named in lawsuits filed Wednesday. A similar law, passed in California in 2002, resulted in Catholic dioceses there paying $1.2 billion in legal settlements.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Aug 15, 2019

At least 20 confirmed dead in suspected arson attack in Japan

Firefighters battle a blaze at Kyoto Animation in Japan. Photo: Kyodo News via AP

20 people were confirmed dead and more than 10 others presumed dead in a suspected arson attack at Kyoto Animation in Japan Thursday, a Japanese fire official told AP. Another 36 others were injured — some critically.

Why it matters: The death toll makes it the deadliest fire in the country since 2001, when a blaze killed 44 in the Kabukicho entertainment district in Tokyo.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jul 18, 2019