UPDATED throughout: Paris’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral continued to burn Monday night, out of control. By 2:10 PM ET the building’s iconic spire was entirely consumed in the conflagration; the entire roof had collapsed by the time firefighters finally appeared on live video coverage.
A spokesman from the church said the entire wooden interior of the more-than-800-year-old cathedral is burning and likely to be destroyed. No injuries have been reported. The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into the Notre Dame fire, CNN reports.
Paris’s deputy mayor has described the damage to the cathedral as “colossal” and that efforts were underway to save some of the art and artifacts inside. French authorities say the fire is “potentially linked” to the $6.8 million renovation project that had been under way on the church’s 2,400-foot high spire, which no longer exists.
MSNBC quoted the French Interior Ministry spokesperson saying firefighters “might not be able to save” the cathedral that took 200 years to build, as the fire expanded into one of its two tall rectangular bell towers.
President Donald Trump took another crack at a presidential response, Speaking at a Tax Day Roundtable/campaign rally in Minnesota, Trump called the cathedral “one of the great treasures of the world. The greatest artists in the world if you think about it, I would say might be greater than almost any museum in the world, and it’s burning very badly. Looks like it’s burning to the ground.”
“That puts a damper on what we’re about to say, to be honest,” Trump told attendees, calling Notre Dame “beyond countries; it’s part of our growing up, part of our culture. Part of our lives.”
Noting he had visited the cathedral, Trump added, “I think I could say there no cathedral in the world like it. They think it was caused by renovation. I hope that’s the reason. Renovation, what’s that all about? But it’s a terrible sight to behold.”
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted [translation]: “Our Lady of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thought for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization issued a statement saying it is ready to “save and restore” Notre Dame, Fox News Channel reported.
The fire broke out at 6:50 PM Paris time which France 24 reported is “five or six minutes” after the cathedral closed for the day.
Fox’s Shep Smith reported that when the fire broke out, it was described as small burning and local news in Paris was not focused on the fire. “As to why they weren’t able to contain it is reporting for another day,” he added.
Two hours after the fire first was noted, much of the cathedral was in flames. U.S. news viewers saw the spire become engulfed and topple; and much of the roof burn away.
CNN reported that, as the fire rapidly spread and took over the iconic cathedral, onlookers nearby
scrambled in disbelief to get a view of the scene, despite being told to clear the area.
Smoke could be seen billowing out from the top of the medieval cathedral, as flames leaped out besides its two bell towers, a Reuters witness reported.
U.S. cable news networks jettisoned regularly scheduled program and focused on the blaze as it spread. Broadcast networks broke into their programming to cover around 2 PM ET.
NBC News reported 400 firefighters had been sent to the house of worship, considered one of the world’s greatest examples of French Gothic architecture.
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted that his city “stands in sorrow” with Paris.
“Heartbreaking scenes of Notre Dame cathedral in flames. London stands in sorrow with Paris today, and in friendship always,” he tweeted.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau tweeted “Thinking of our friends in France as you fight this devastating fire.”
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted, “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!”
But French authorities said dumping massive amounts of water from air could lead to collapse of entire structure.
More appropriately, First Lady Melania Trump tweeted, ” My heart breaks for the people of Paris after seeing the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. Praying for everyone’s safety.”
And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted to the people of Paris: “@NotreDameParis has stood as a beating heart of religion & culture for centuries, inspiring all who have visited her. The footage of today’s fire is nothing short of heartbreaking. To the people of Paris & France: know that America stands with you.”
An early tweet as the fire began to spread: