Photos: Roof, spire collapse on historic Notre Dame cathedral
The iconic spire of the Notre Dame cathedral collapsed as a fire raged on the roof of the cathedral
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Paris — A massive fire swept through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday, ravaging the 850-year-old building and leaving France in a state of shock.
The 93-metre spire over the cathedral's central crossing was consumed in the inferno, with its upper part swaying and then falling as flames shot up from the roof.
Security forces sealed off the area around the cathedral as firefighters used powerful hoses in an effort to bring the blaze under control.
Solemn crowds of hundreds of people stood behind police cordons, watching in astonishment as the fire swept through the church.
Several dozen people knelt on the street and sang the Hail Mary.
"The situation is obviously catastrophic," deputy mayor of Paris Emmanuel Gregoire told broadcaster BFMTV.
The entire woodwork of the cathedral's roof and rafters, some of which dated back to the 13th century, was in flames, cathedral spokesman Andre Finot told BFMTV.
The fire was still raging nearly three hours after it erupted as plumes of smoke billowed over the French capital.
The haze and the flames lashing the building turned the evening sky overhead orange, while sparks and embers flew through the air.
Television images showed a huge blaze behind a skeleton of rafters, some of which had already collapsed. One of the cathedral's stained glass windows appeared to have been burnt out on an upper story.
Built in the 12th century, Notre Dame is Paris' top attraction by footfall: Some 12 million tourists visited in 2017, according to Parisian tourism authorities. The UNESCO World Heritage Site lies in the middle of the French capital and draws tens of thousands of worshippers and tourists a day.
According to French media, the fire could be linked to renovation work and was discovered around 6:50 pm (1650 GMT). Police sources said they did not think there was any terrorist involvement.
"A whole nation is in sorrow," French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter before he arrived at the scene.
"My thoughts are with all Catholics and all French citizens," Macron added. "Like all our countrymen, I am sad to see this part of us burning this evening."
The history of Notre Dame is impossible to separate from that of France.
It was here that Christian crusaders prayed before going to fight in the Holy Land, where revolutionaries defiled representations of French kings and Napoleon crowned himself emperor in 1804.
According to the cathedral website, the building fell into ruin after years of neglect following the French Revolution, but was saved thanks to a vast restoration campaign that began in 1844.
Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, tweeted: "A terrible fire is in progress at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. The @PompiersParis are trying to control the flames."
Expressions of shock and mourning came in from around the world.
U.S. President Donald Trump called the fire "something like few people have witnessed."
"It might be greater than almost any museum in the world and it is burning very badly it looks like it is burning to the ground," Trump continued, describing the devestation as "a terrible sight to behold."
He earlier offered advice to city firefighters, writing in a tweet that authorities in Paris should consider using "flying water tankers" to douse the flames.
European Council President Donald Tusk sent his condolences to the people of Paris. "The Notre Dame of Paris is the Notre Dame of all of Europe," Tusk tweeted in French. "We are all with Paris today," he wote ini English.
In London, mayor Sadiq Khan said his city "stands in sorrow with Paris today, and in friendship always."
In a statement, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti also says:
"We express our solidarity to French Catholics and to the people of Paris and we offer our prayers for firefighters and those who are doing what is possible to face this dramatic situation."
©2019 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)
Pres. Trump calls Notre Dame blaze a "terrible sight to behold," later adding, "It's a part of culture. It's a part of our lives." pic.twitter.com/kgSr9IEFXv— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) April 15, 2019
Notre-Dame de Paris en proie aux flammes. Émotion de toute une nation. Pensée pour tous les catholiques et pour tous les Français. Comme tous nos compatriotes, je suis triste ce soir de voir brûler cette part de nous.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 15, 2019
Notre Dame's spire has collapsed in the fire. pic.twitter.com/bKbnrwZA1V— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 15, 2019
Un terrible incendie est en cours à la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Les @PompiersParis sont en train de tenter de maîtriser les flammes. Nous sommes mobilisés sur place en lien étroit avec le @dioceseParis. J'invite chacune et chacun à respecter le périmètre de sécurité. pic.twitter.com/9X0tGtlgba— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) April 15, 2019
#NotreDame: 'The roof has entirely collapsed, there are flames coming out the back of the cathedral as if it was a torch'@charli, Journalist at France 24, at the scene of the fire. pic.twitter.com/2B0IrMiDcL— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) April 15, 2019
Notre Dame, Paris, is on fire and it feels like the end of the world. pic.twitter.com/qYYk7ewipq— Shiv Malik (@shivmalik) April 15, 2019
BREAKING: Smoke and flames seen shooting out of top of Paris' iconic Notre Dame cathedral as fire breaks out.— ABC News (@ABC) April 15, 2019
The fire may be connected to the recent restoration of the church, officials say. https://t.co/lsQYxe5tef pic.twitter.com/FQ5xV9GyiF
Translation from @afp: fire underway at Notre-Dame de Paris, "potentially linked" to renovations, acc. to firefighters. Seriousness still to be determined. The fire started in the roof space, say firefighters https://t.co/dptlEccF0R— Catherine Nicholson (@ACatInParis) April 15, 2019