A massive fire broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday afternoon, sending flames shooting out of the roof and toppling its spire as firefighters desperately fought to save the iconic Catholic landmark.
A fire official told Agence France-Presse that the main structure is “saved and preserved.”
The cause of the blaze is not yet known, and there have been no reports of injuries or fatalities.
Officials said the fire was potentially linked to the renovation of the building. Scaffolding could be seen ablaze on the roof of the famous façade.
Earlier, officials had expressed fear the entire cathedral could be lost.
Church spokesman Andre Finot told French media that the church’s frame was also aflame.
“Everything is burning,” Finot said.
On Twitter, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo urged residents of the French capital to stay away while firefighters tried to control the flames.
French President Emmanuel Macron arrived at the scene of the fire early Monday evening.
“Notre-Dame de Paris in flames,” Macron tweeted. “Emotion of a whole nation. Thought for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our compatriots, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
Hundreds of people gathered in the streets below to watch the blaze, some in tears, others simply shouting its name.
A CNN International correspondent said that blowing cinders were falling on their heads.
Dramatic images posted to social media showed the roof of the medieval cathedral engulfed in flames and its spire collapsing into the church.
BREAKING: The roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral has collapsed into the church: pic.twitter.com/gXTUzRXV9L
— J.D. Durkin (@jiveDurkey) April 15, 2019
— Patrick Galey (@patrickgaley) April 15, 2019
— Paris Match (@ParisMatch) April 15, 2019
Smoke could be seen billowing from miles away.
— Thomas Vampouille (@tomvampouille) April 15, 2019
There was some good news.
“Good news: all the works of art were saved,” reported French journalist Nicolas Delesalle. “The treasure of the Cathedral is intact, the Crown of thorns, the Holy sacraments.”
The Gothic cathedral is one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions.
The foundation stone was laid by Pope Alexander III in 1163, and construction of the building took more than two decades. It survived the French Revolution in the late 18th century and experienced a surge in popularity following the publication of Victor Hugo's novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in 1831.
Parisians gathered for a vigil blocks from the burning cathedral to sing hymns.
Others posted aerial images from French TV.
— Antoine Llorca ⭐️⭐️ (@antoinellorca) April 15, 2019
President Trump addressed the fire at a Monday economic roundtable in Minnesota. Trump called Notre Dame a “truly great cathedral” and said the blaze put a “damper on what we’re about to say.”
“They’re having a terrible, terrible fire. You probably saw,” Trump remarked. “But I will tell you that the fire that they are having at the Notre Dame Cathedral is something like few people have witnessed.”
He continued: “It was burning at a level you rarely see a fire burn. It’s one of the great treasures of the world. ... Probably, if you think about it, it might be greater than almost any museum in the world, and it’s burning very badly. Looks like it’s burning to the ground.”
While traveling on Air Force One to the event, the president offered advice.
So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2019
France's civil security agency said “all means” except for water-dropping aircraft were deployed to tackle the blaze, per the Associated Press.
The defense agency said those were unsuitable for fires like the one at Notre Dame because dumping water on the building could cause the whole structure to collapse.
As night fell on Paris, the fire continued to burn.
— With Christopher Wilson contributing.
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