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Donations to rebuild Notre-Dame cathedral top €650 million as France's richest man pledges €200million

BY: dailymail.co.uk

Donations to rebuild Notre Dame have exceeded 650 million euros as France's richest man pledged 200 million euros (£170m) towards the restoration after Monday night's inferno.

Bernard Arnault of luxury goods group LVMH doubled the 100 million euros pledged by Hollywood actress Salma Hayek's husband Francois-Henri Pinault.

Other heavyweight donors include the Bettencourt family - owners of cosmetics giant L'Oreal - who have given 200 million euros and the French oil giant Total who donated 100 million on Tuesday. 

Multi-billionaire Arnault and fashion tycoon Pinault made their generous pledges after President Emmanuel Macron launched an appeal on Monday.

Pinault, who is boss of Kering, said: 'This tragedy impacts all French people' and 'everyone wants to restore life as quickly as possible to this jewel of our heritage.'

This was followed by another 100 million euro donation from multinational oil and gas company Total, which is headquartered in Paris. 

CEO Patrick Pouyanne tweeted that Total was making 'a special donation of 100 million euros' and added the slogan 'fluctuat nec mergitur' (tossed but not sunk), a motto on the old Paris coat of arms.

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But, in a statement, the LVMH group said their donation would be double that. 

It said: 'The Arnault family and the LVMH group, in solidarity with this national tragedy, are associated with the reconstruction of this extraordinary cathedral, symbol of France, its heritage and its unity.

'In the meantime, the LVMH Group puts at the disposal of the state and the concerned authorities all its teams, creative, architectural, financial, to help the long work of reconstruction on the one hand, and of fundraising on the other hand.' 

Other high-profile French donors included the investor Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere with 10 million euros, and construction magnates Martin and Olivier Bouygues, also with 10 million euros.

Among other firms, the Credit Agricole bank gave five million euros, while US private equity investor Henry Kravis has promised $10 (€8.8) million.

Corporate contributions are expected to climb, with blue-chip firms like Vinci, Michelin and BNP Paribas also saying they were weighing how to participate.

Air France said it would offer free flights to experts brought in to help with Notre-Dame's renovation.

France's Heritage Foundation has launched a 'national collection' on its website. 

And Valerie Pecresse, president of the Ile-de-France region, has unveiled a budget of 10 million euros of 'emergency aid to help the archdiocese to start the work.'

Ms Pecresse added: 'This reconstruction, which will obviously be very expensive, will mobilise a whole country.'

Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, said she wanted to organise an 'an international conference of donors' to welcome 'experts who are able to raise funds.'

France's Heritage Foundation has launched a 'national collection' on its website. 

And Valerie Pecresse, president of the Ile-de-France region, has unveiled a budget of 10 million euros of 'emergency aid to help the archdiocese to start the work.'

Ms Pecresse added: 'This reconstruction, which will obviously be very expensive, will mobilise a whole country.'

Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, said she wanted to organise an 'an international conference of donors' to welcome 'experts who are able to raise funds.'

Firefighters confirmed on Tuesday morning the blaze had been totally extinguished after battling the fire throughout the night. 

The cause of the blaze was not immediately confirmed. The cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work which the fire service said could be linked to the blaze.

French prosecutors said it was being treated as an 'involuntary' fire, indicating that foul play was ruled out for now.