Around 400 firefighters are battling to save Notre Dame after a catastropic fire engulfed the world famous cathedral in Paris, toppling its spire and threatening the entire wooden frame of the building.
The deputy mayor of Paris, Emmanuel Gregoire, said the cathedral had suffered “colossal damages”, and the emergency services were trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored in the cathedral.
Parts of the roof of the Gothic cathedral have suffered extensive damage already with the iconic spire collapsing as a result of the fire.
— Patrick Galey (@patrickgaley) April 15, 2019
Flames have also been seen inside the landmark’s rectangular towers.
The fire chief in Paris has said it is unclear if city firefighters will be able to keep the blaze from spreading and causing more destruction.
Jean-Claude Gallet said firefighters are “not sure we are capable of stopping the spreading” to Notre Dame’s second tower and belfry.
He said: “If it collapses, you can imagine how important the damage will be.”
A cathedral spokesman has said the entire wooden interior was burning and likely to be destroyed
Andre Finot said: “Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame.”
Paris prosecutors opened an investigation into the blaze as the fire was still burning out of control, and the authorities said no-one had been hurt.
Hundreds of people on bridges around Notre Dame in Paris, watching in shock as fire engulfs the famed cathedral.
Pictures from Paris show scene of devastation
— Patrick Galey (@patrickgaley) April 15, 2019
Associated Press reporters at the scene saw massive plumes of yellow-brown smoke filling the air above the cathedral and ash falling on the island that houses Notre Dame and marks the centre of Paris.
Ashley Huntington, 21, an American university student studying in Paris, said: “Our class ran what was supposed to be 30 minutes walking but we probably got here in 20 running.
“You could just get close and see the smoke. The smoke is everywhere in the sky. It seems like more pieces of the scaffolding are currently falling.”
She added: “It just looks like it’s out of control. I’ve never seen a fire in real life but the flames keep getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think it’s getting better at all.
“The police right now are definitely making sure the public is cleared away. We keep getting pushed further and further away.”
Politicians react to Notre Dame fire
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo described the incident as “terrible” and that fire crews are on the scene with the public asked to respect the security cordon.
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
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “Our Lady of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thought for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
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
And US President Donald Trump tweeted: “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!”
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
European Parliament Brexit official Guy Verhofstadt has said he is “so sad” to see “a masterpiece of European gothic is at risk of being destroyed”.
He tweeted: “So sad to see the images of the burning #NotreDameDeParis.
“I hope that the Paris fire brigade will get the fire under control as soon as possible.
“My thoughts are with the people of France as a masterpiece of European gothic is at risk of being destroyed.”
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) April 15, 2019
And Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “This is truly devastating.
“What a cultural tragedy, not just for Paris and France, but for the world.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said his city “stands in sorrow with Paris today”.
“Heartbreaking scenes of Notre Dame cathedral in flames,” he tweeted.
“London stands in sorrow with Paris today, and in friendship always.”
Heartbreaking scenes of Notre Dame cathedral in flames.
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) April 15, 2019
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker described the fire as a “horror”.
In a press release written in French, Mr Juncker said: “I am minute by minute the fire of which Notre-Dame de Paris is the prey.
“Our Lady of Paris belongs to the whole of mankind. What a sad spectacle. What a horror.
“I share the emotion of the French nation which is also ours.”
Reaction from religious leaders to devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral
The Vatican has issued a statement that said: “The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”
The statement said the Vatican is praying for firefighters “and those who are doing everything possible to confront this dramatic situation”.
It also expressed “our closeness to French Catholics and the population of Paris, and we assure our prayers for firefighters”.
Tonight we pray for the firefighters tackling the tragic #NotreDame fire – and for everyone in France and beyond who watches and weeps for this beautiful, sacred place where millions have met with Jesus Christ. Nous sommes avec vous.
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) April 15, 2019
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, told the Press Association: “The shock at the outbreak of this fire is spreading around the world.
“It is an iconic building visited by millions, but more importantly it is a symbol of faith which is at the heart of Europe.
“We therefore all pray that the fire is extinguished quickly and with a shared effort, the building made good.”