A fire erupted at the famed Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France.
PARIS – A massive fire was raging Monday at the famed Notre Dame cathedral in Paris as shocked crowds gathered on streets, bridges and squares to watch one of the globe’s most iconic churches burn.
The cathedral’s spire was engulfed in flames before tumbling over. Video footage from the scene showed fire and smoke spewing from the landmark, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and home to priceless works of art. The flames appeared to be shooting out of the roof behind the nave of the cathedral.
The fire burned for hours, virtually unabated despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters. The flames continued to glow when darkness fell.
“A special mission has been launched to try to save all works of art that can be saved,” Emmanuel Grégoire, first deputy to the mayor of Paris, said on French TV.
There was no immediate word on injuries. Many tourists and others in the area tapped social media to notify friends and relatives that they were not harmed.
Firefighters blasted the inferno with water from a ladder trucks but did not tackle from above. Some could be seen laboring inside the structure itself. A perimeter kept back at least a perimeter of three blocks.
“Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame,” Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told French media.
The cause was not immediately known, but officials said it could be linked to renovation work. The cathedral is in the midst of a $6.8 million renovation project.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo decried the “colossal damage” and said several hundred firefighters were on the scene.
“So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” President Donald Trump tweeted. “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a televised speech to the nation Monday evening and rushed to the scene. French historian Camille Pascal told French TV the fire was destroying “invaluable heritage.”
“It’s been 800 years that the Cathedral watches over Paris,” Pascal said. “Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre Dame.”
The cathedral renovation project was part of an effort to save the deteriorating building, which dates back almost 1,000 years. Weather and pollution have taken their toll on the stone structure.
“Pollution is the biggest culprit,” Philippe Villeneuve, architect in chief of historic monuments in France, told Time magazine in 2017. “We need to replace the ruined stones. We need to replace the joints with traditional materials. This is going to be extensive.”
The cathedral dates back almost 1,000 years. Its construction began in the 12th century, and it took about 300 years to complete. The result is that, although it is predominantly French Gothic, there are areas that reflect the Renaissance and the Naturalism era of construction.
Still, the cathedral is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world. The name Notre Dame means “Our Lady” in French, and is frequently used in the names of Catholic church buildings around the world.
Contributing: Brian Hester in Paris; The Associated Press
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