Race against time to protect exposed Notre Dame from storms

Fearing rain could inflict further damage to the fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral, alpinists will install temporary tarps over the building

PARIS -- The man in charge of Notre Dame's restoration is rushing to prevent further damage to the cathedral ahead of expected storms in Paris this week.

Architect-in-chief Philippe Villeneuve said Tuesday he has appointed professional mountain climbers to install temporary tarps over the gutted and exposed building to offset potential rain damage.

The predicted bad weather threatens to further damage the 850-year-old cathedral whose roof was destroyed in last week's blaze and is at the mercy of the elements.

"The climbers, since it will be climbers who will do that, and the scaffolders, are ready," Villeneuve told BFMTV Tuesday. "The beams are there, the tarpaulin on its way .... The highest priority is to protect the cathedral from the rain to come."

He said he had to rush the installation of the protective covers that started Tuesday.

Parts of the cathedral, including its partially-destroyed vaulted ceiling, are already pregnant with water after firefighters fought against the flames for over 12 hours a little more than a week ago.

The vaulted ceiling was also badly damaged after the cathedral's 19th century spire collapsed.

Notre Dame isn't expected to reopen to the public for five or six years, according to its rector, although French president Emmanuel Macron is pushing for a quick reconstruction. Investigators think the fire was an accident, possibly linked to renovation work.