Landmarks and heritage sites ravaged by fire

After Japan’s historic UNESCO-listed Shuri castle was devastated by fire Thursday, here are other cases of major heritage sites that have gone up in the flames in recent years.

On the evening of April 15, 2019, smoke and then flames were spotted billowing from Paris’s 850-year-old cathedral, the most visited historic monument in Europe.
Spreading from the attic, the fire devoured the roof’s wooden frame and the spire crashed down in flames.
The cause of the blaze is not known, with an electrical fault or a cigarette among the theories.
It took 400 firefighters several hours to control the blaze; stained glass windows, towers, bells and most artworks and relics survived.
With clean-up and reinforcement work under way, reconstruction is not expected to start before 2021.

Brazil’s National Museum
Late on September 2, 2018, a faulty air conditioning system sparked a fire that tore through Brazil’s National Museum, destroying most of its prized collection.
Latin America’s largest natural history, the gutted building had held more than 20 million artefacts, including 26,000 fossils.
Entire collections were lost, including one that catalogued five million insects.
Among the recovered items are fragments of the 12,000-year-old remains of a human being, and others of a dinosaur.
The museum is seeking funds for restoration.

Shroud of Turin spared
In April 1997 a fire swept through the cathedral in northern Italy that contains the famous Shroud of Turin — believed by some Christians to be the burial cloth of Jesus.
The relic escaped because it has been moved during restoration work.
The blaze, which may have been caused by a short circuit, rapidly engulfed the wooden dome of the 17th-century chapel in the city of Turin, and spread to the adjacent palace, destroying many art works.

Venice opera house
In January 1996 fire engulfed Venice’s 18th-century Teatro La Fenice (The Phoenix), one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses.
The flames, fanned by a breeze from the lagoon, spread quickly through the largely wooden interior, with the floors and then roof collapsing.
The elegant building, which had already suffered major fires, had been closed for restoration. Two electricians were jailed for negligence.
After major reconstruction works, La Fenice was fully reopened in 2004.

Barcelona opera house
One of Spain’s cultural jewels, Barcelona’s 150-year-old Gran Teatre del Liceu was destroyed by fire in January 1994.
Only the foyer and the horseshoe arch over the auditorium were left standing.
On the famous La Rambla avenue, the opera house was rebuilt and enlarged, reopening in 1999.

Windsor Castle
The 11-century castle west of London, Queen Elizabeth’s favourite residence, suffered extensive damage in 1992 in a fire that started when a lighting projector set too close to a curtain caused a blaze in a chapel.
Around one-fifth of the castle was destroyed, including more than 100 of its 1,000 rooms. After major work, it reopened to the public in 1997.

Bosnia’s National Library
In August 1992 Serb forces besieging Sarajevo during the war fired incendiary shells into Bosnia’s 19th century National Library, almost burning it to the ground.
Only about 10 percent of the two million books, photographs and other documents it contained survived.
Reconstructed in keeping with its pseudo-Moorish style, the new library was inaugurated in 2014.

York Minster
In July 1984 a fire believed to have been sparked by a lightning strike almost destroyed the 15th-century York Minster cathedral, one of Britain’s most famous churches.
The heat cracked its 16th century stained glass Rose Window but it was repaired in restoration work completed in 1988. — AFP