Paris, Apr 15: A colossal fire swept through the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday, causing a spire to collapse and raising fears over the future of the nearly millenium old building and its precious artworks.
Notre-Dame’s main structure has been ‘saved and preserved’ after fire, said Paris fire official.
The fire, which began in the early evening, sent flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the Paris sky as stunned Parisians and tourists watched on in sheer horror.
The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year.
A spokesman for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze.
The fire service said the blaze could be “potentially linked” to ongoing renovations. President Emmanuel Macron cancelled a major televised policy speech he was due to give on Monday evening over the “terrible fire ravaging Notre-Dame.”
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo in a tweet described it as a “terrible fire”. “The Paris fire service is trying to control the flames,” she wrote on Twitter, asking residents to respect the security cordon thrown up around the site.
A spokesperson for the cathedral said the fire, which comes as French Catholics prepare to celebrate Easter, broke out at around 1650 GMT. Fire trucks could be seen speeding through Paris towards the scene on the Ile de la Cite — an island in the Seine at the heart of Paris.
The Paris police department in a tweet called on residents to avoid the area and to “make way for rescue vehicles”.
Emmanuel Macron speech
President Emmanuel Macron cancelled a major televised policy speech he was due to give on Monday evening over the “terrible fire ravaging Notre-Dame.”
He was to head to the scene in person, the Elysee announced. In a tweet he expressed the “emotion of a whole nation” on seeing Notre-Dame ablaze.
“Like all my compatriots I am sad to see a part of us burn this evening” he said, expressing solidarity with “all Catholics and all French people.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Notre-Dame cathedral a “symbol of European culture” as the blaze raged. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo in a tweet described it as a “terrible fire”.
US President Donald Trump in a tweet said: “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!”
Hundreds of people gathered on the bridges of Paris downriver to witness the scene, some filming the images with their smartphones, an AFP reporter said. A burning smell filled the air.