PARIS: The remaining paintings inside the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris are to be removed on Friday and stored, with fire service officials now satisfied the damaged structure is safe enough to go inside.
Firemen and engineering experts have been working on the fragile landmark since a devastating blaze on Monday night, 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.
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The artworks are expected to be transported to the Louvre museum, where experts are set to repair relatively minor damage caused by smoke or water before storing them until they can be returned.
Thanks to a human chain created by firefighters and church officials on Monday night, the vast majority of the most sacred artefacts 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.
President Emmanuel Macron welcomed a delegation of officials from the UN's cultural agency UNESCO on Friday to discuss offers of aid from other countries to help restore the beloved emblem of France.
He was accompanied by army general Jean-Louis Georgelin who has been named by Macron to oversee the process.