A massive fire engulfed the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday evening, destroying the monument’s spire.
After fire crews battled the relentless flames for hours, Paris fire officials said late Monday that the cathedral’s two main rectangular towers had been “saved and preserved,” though much of the monument’s roof has been destroyed along with the iconic spire.
The extent of the damage to the rest of the cathedral is not yet clear. “We’re still working to save the cathedral’s work of arts,” Laurent Nunez, secretary to France’s interior minister, told reporters Monday.
Cathedral spokesperson Andre Finot told French media that the building had sustained “colossal damage” and that the church’s medieval wooden interior had been gutted. “Everything is burning,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “Nothing will remain from the frame.”
The blaze erupted at the centuries-old cathedral on Monday around 6:30 pm local time, and news of the fire spread rapidly on social media as people shared photos showing bright orange flames and smoke pouring from a spire of the church. Images later showed the cathedral’s spire crumbling, swallowed up by the fire.
The cause of the fire is not yet clear, though prosecutors said a preliminary investigation suggests it appears to be an accident, possibly linked to restoration work. The more than 800-year-old church, which is one of Paris’s most famous attractions, has been in desperate need of repairs and restoration.
Notre Dame was evacuated when the flames broke out, and police evacuated the entire Ile de la Cité, the island where Notre Dame is located, by about 8:30 pm local time, according to the Guardian. At least one firefighter has reportedly been seriously injured.
In recent years, Notre Dame had fallen into a state of disrepair, with its buttresses eroding and its famous gargoyles replaced with piping because they were disintegrating. This prompted a massive fundraising effort to try to save the landmark, which is one of the most popular sites in Paris. About 13 million tourists visit each year.
Just last week, some of the statues atop the cathedral were removed for restoration as part of a $6.8 million renovation project on the cathedral’s spine.
Construction began on the cathedral in the late 12th century, and the structure was badly damaged during the French Revolution. French writer Victor Hugo popularized the cathedral in his 1830s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which helped make the landmark famous and galvanized the public to undergo a major restoration project in the mid-1800s.
Reactions to the burning of Notre Dame
French President Emmanuel Macron described the fire at Notre Dame as the “emotion of an entire nation.”
“Thinking of all Catholics and all French people,” he tweeted. “Like all our compatriots, I am sad this evening to see this part of us burn.”
After fire officials said they salvaged the two main structures, Macron announced that the “worst had been avoided” and vowed to rebuild.
People in Paris mourned with Macron, with observers lining the streets as the cathedral burned. People prayed and held vigils for the monument.
“It is like losing a member of one’s own family,” Pierre Guillaume Bonnet, a 45-year-old marketing director, told the New York Times.
Foreign leaders also lamented the destruction of Notre Dame and the loss to Paris and France.
British Prime Minister Theresa said her “thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre-Dame cathedral.”
President Donald Trump called the fire “so horrible to watch.” He also weighed in with his approach to firefighting, suggesting that “flying water tankers” could be used to put it out.
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
This idea was quickly shot done by France’s Interior Ministry, which noted in a tweet that water-bombing the cathedral would also destroy it.
Hundreds of firemen of the Paris Fire Brigade are doing everything they can to bring the terrible #NotreDame fire under control. All means are being used, except for water-bombing aircrafts which, if used, could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral.
– Sécurité Civile Fr (@SecCivileFrance) April 15, 2019
At a later event, Trump called it a “terrible, terrible fire,” and lamented the damage done to the “one of the great treasures of the world.”
This is a developing news story.