100+ firefighters extinguish cathedral blaze in France

The fire at the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Nantes evokes memories of the 2019 Notre Dame Cathedral fire in Paris


dpa, Hamburg, Germany

PARIS -- French prosecutors have launched an arson investigation following a major fire at a 15th century Gothic cathedral in the western city of Nantes on Saturday.

The blaze spewed smoke from the front windows of the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, but damage was mostly limited to the large pipe organ inside.

French Prime minister Jean Castex meets firefighters after the blaze at the Gothic St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral in Nantes, France. The fire evokes memories of the devastating blaze in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris last year. (AP Photo/Laetitia Notarianni, Pool)
French Prime minister Jean Castex meets firefighters after the blaze at the Gothic St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral in Nantes, France. The fire evokes memories of the devastating blaze in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris last year. (AP Photo/Laetitia Notarianni, Pool)

The organ was "completely destroyed," said the head of the local fire department, Laurent Ferlay.

The public prosecutor's office is now investigating whether arson was the cause.

The fire broke out in three places, which is probably not a coincidence, Nantes prosecutor Pierre Sennes told local radio station France Bleu Loire Ocean.

Flames originated from the organ and on both sides of the nave, BFMTV reported, citing the public prosecutor's office.

According to media reports, over 100 firefighters were deployed to the cathedral to extinguish the blaze, which broke out around 7:30 am (0530 GMT).

By Saturday afternoon the fire was nearly completely out. However, French media reported that a crane was to lift the wreckage of the organ out of the church in order to reach the last burning embers.

The diocese published pictures of the damage that showed debris from the organ scattered in the church's interior.

In a video posted by firefighters shortly after the blaze erupted, flames could be seen through the church's front windows while smoke pours out of them. The windows were also destroyed.

According to the Nantes diocese, the church had also caught fire in 1972, destroying its roof. After restoration work, the church, which belongs to the French late Gothic style, reopened its doors in 1985.

In 2015, a spectacular fire destroyed the roof of another church in Nantes, the Basilica of Saint Donatian and Saint Rogatian.

Saturday's fire comes a little more than a year after Notre Dame Cathedral in the capital, Paris, caught fire, destroying the roof of the 12th century Gothic cathedral as well as its 93-metre-high spire.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his support for firefighters saving this "Gothic jewel," while Prime Minister Jean Castex said he would travel to Nantes on Saturday to see the damage.

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©2020 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)

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