Artworks spared in Paris Museum blaze

Museum directors in Paris were counting their blessings yesterday that damage was less extensive than they had originally feared, after a fire ravaged the Palais de Chaillot at the Trocadero on Tuesday.

The blaze did cause extensive damage to the north-east wing, however, which houses the Museum of French Monuments and the Museum of the Cinema. The fire broke out just before 10pm and took 180 fire-fighters more than three hours to bring under control.

Guy Cogeval, director of the Museum of French Monuments, explained: "Although it looks like a battlefield, the damage to the artefacts is thankfully fairly limited." None of the originals was damaged and only 5 to 10 per cent of the plaster replicas have been destroyed.

The Museum of French Monuments houses a collection of medieval and Renaissance sculptures and monuments, some measuring 13ft in height, including cathedral porches and pieces of church facades. There are also several hundred plaster replicas of French Gothic art.

The main damage to the Museum of the Cinema, which is situated in the basement, was caused by the thousands of gallons of water pumped by the fire brigade. The whole museum was flooded along with hundreds of costumes and photographs. Plans are now under way for their restoration. The 30,000 film reels stored there escaped unharmed and were under police guard yesterday afternoon in the Palais gardens. The total costs of repair are likely to run to millions of pounds.

Police sources confirmed yesterday morning that the fire was not being treated as suspicious. It had been started by flammable materials left by workmen.

Although it is too early to say how long the Museum of the Cinema will be closed, the fire will not affect the opposite wing of the Palais de Chaillot, which houses the Museum of Mankind and the Marine Museum; the Trocadero will also remain open as normal.