Stones fell from Notre Dame's ceiling after July heat wave

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(AP Photo/Lewis Joly). Police officers clear the area around Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. Authorities started clearing the area around Notre Dame ahead of decontamination and cleanup work which will resume on Aug. 19 after new ... (AP Photo/Lewis Joly). Police officers clear the area around Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. Authorities started clearing the area around Notre Dame ahead of decontamination and cleanup work which will resume on Aug. 19 after new ...
(AP Foto/Francois Mori). Trabajadores instalan cercos altos alrededor de la Catedral de Notre Dame en París, el martes 13 de agosto del 2019. (AP Foto/Francois Mori). Trabajadores instalan cercos altos alrededor de la Catedral de Notre Dame en París, el martes 13 de agosto del 2019.
(AP Photo/Francois Mori). Workers install high fences on a bridge around Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Workers are preparing to decontaminate some Paris streets surrounding the Notre Dame Cathedral that have been tested with hi... (AP Photo/Francois Mori). Workers install high fences on a bridge around Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Workers are preparing to decontaminate some Paris streets surrounding the Notre Dame Cathedral that have been tested with hi...

By ANGELA CHARLTON
Associated Press

PARIS (AP) - Several stones fell from the vaulted ceiling of fire-ravaged Notre Dame after last month's European heat wave, a French official said Wednesday, urging renewed stabilization efforts to prevent further damage to the iconic Paris cathedral.

The Culture Ministry official said the stones crumbled after temperatures reached a record 42.6 Celsius (108.7 Fahrenheit) in Paris in late July. The official said heat quickly dried out the mortar that was holding the ceiling stones in place.

The damage is "not serious" but the 12th-century cathedral remains at risk of further damage - and possible collapse, the official told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to be publicly named according to ministry policy.

The vaulted ceiling is particularly fragile, after the April fire destroyed the massive lead-and-wood roof that kept the cathedral's overall structure stable. The ceiling vaults are also among the many features that make Notre Dame a treasure of world heritage and testament to medieval ingenuity.

The chief architect of France's historic monuments warned last month about the danger from exceptional heat to the water-logged masonry.

After three months of painstaking work to clear out hazardous debris and shore up the building, regional French authorities suspended all activity inside the cathedral last month over concerns about lead contamination.

Currently only a few select security officials and experts are allowed on the site, notably to monitor activity such as the falling stones, the ministry said.

The official urged resumed work as soon as possible to secure and clean up the cathedral to prepare it for a costly, yearslong reconstruction.

But the risk of lead poisoning also remains.

Activists and residents accuse authorities of underestimating the danger after hundreds of tons of lead melted in the fire, spewing toxic dust into the Paris air.

Authorities have launched three main lead prevention operations: cleaning up neighborhood schools, de-toxifying surrounding streets, and setting up a stricter new decontamination zone for experts working inside the cathedral.

That zone is expected to be ready next week, and is aimed at ensuring that workers inside the cathedral don't track lead-based pollution outside the work zone.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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