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Last Notre-Dame artworks removed as officials head inside

Philippe Wojazer, AFP| An employee stands near a truck on April 19, 2019, in Paris, after loading large artworks saved from the fire that devastated the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral.

The remaining paintings inside Notre-Dame in Paris are to be removed on Friday and stored, with fire service officials now satisfied the iconic cathedral is safe enough to go inside.

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Firemen and engineering experts have been working on the fragile landmark since Monday's devastating blaze, erecting scaffolding and other wooden supports to stop any of the stonework collapsing.

"The paintings inside the cathedral have been saved from the flames and can now be taken down and transported to safe areas," France's Culture Minister Franck Riester told reporters at the scene on Friday.

"All of the paintings will be removed today," Riester added, saying that he was feeling "very positive" given how most of the priceless artworks, many of them dating from the 18th century, had been saved.

Four works are in an area that is still considered risky, however.

The paintings are expected to be transported to the Louvre museum, where "experts will for the first time be able to examine how badly they have been damaged by flames, by ash, but also by the vast quantities of water that were pumped into the building," said FRANCE 24's Chris Moore, reporting at the scene.

Thanks to a human chain created by firefighters and church officials on Monday night, the vast majority of the most sacred artifacts and valuable items inside the cathedral were saved.

Even a copper statue of a rooster containing relics that sat atop the now-destroyed Notre-Dame spire was also found among the ashes, dented but intact.

Is French carpentry up to the task of rebuilding Notre-Dame?

The artwork's transfer came as French President Emmanuel Macron hosted officials from the United Nations' cultural agency at the Élysée Palace, where he was expected to set out ideas for the cathedral's reconstruction.

Macron was due to meet with state delegates from the Paris-based UNESCO, which oversees global heritage issues and has offered to help rebuild Notre-Dame.

The French president has promised to rebuild the iconic 12th-century cathedral within five years.

"That is the subject of a lot of scepticism in France for various reasons," noted FRANCE 24's Moore. "Not least a lack of properly-trained manpower in terms of carpenters, stonemasons, [and other] highly-specialised professions.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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