‘Nothing will remain’: Firefighters battle devastating blaze at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris

National Post

PARIS — A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris’ soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below.

The blaze collapsed the cathedral’s spire and spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers. A spokesman said the entire wooden frame of the cathedral would likely come down, and that the vault of the edifice could be threatened too.

Flames burn the roof of the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019.FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

“Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame,” Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told French media. The 12th-century cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions.

The cause of the blaze was not known, but French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire is “potentially linked” to a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the church’s spire and its 250 tons of lead. Prosecutors opened an investigation as Paris police said there were no reported deaths.

FRANCE 24 English @France24_en

Fire: “It’s not under control at all at this time,” @FRANCE24 @Charli says. Watch our special edition

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fire: ‘The entire roof has collapsed and there is still intense amounts of smoke, from across the river it’s choking’@charli, journalist for France 24 at the scene pic.twitter.com/tJqGGDMyrL

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UPDATE: Spire of Notre Dame cathedral collapses due to fire https://on.rt.com/9sbs 

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Flames shot out of the roof behind the nave of the cathedral, among the most visited landmarks in the world. Hundreds of people lined up bridges around the island that houses the cathedral, watching in shock as acrid smoke rose in plumes.

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French President Emmanuel Macron was treating the fire as a national emergency, rushing to the scene and straight into meetings at the Paris police headquarters nearby.

Emmanuel Macron @EmmanuelMacron
 

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.

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Macron says the fire is taking part of everyone in France with it. He tweeted after the blaze broke out that he was sad to see “a part of us being on fire.”

He extended “thoughts for all the Catholics and all the French.”

Smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

Deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said emergency services were trying to salvage the famed art pieces stored in the cathedral.

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre Dame is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages as well as one of the most beloved structures in the world. Situated on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the Seine river, the cathedral’s architecture is famous for, among other things, its many gargoyles and its iconic flying buttresses.

Flames rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. AP Photo/Thibault Camus

Among the most celebrated artworks inside are its three stained-glass rose windows, placed high up on the west, north and south faces of the cathedral. Its priceless treasures also include a Catholic relic, the crown of thorns, which is only occasionally displayed, including on Fridays during Lent.

The cathedral was immortalized in Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” published in 1831, and has long been a subject of fascination in popular culture as well as the traditional art world.

Seen from across the Seine River, smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

French historian Camille Pascal told BFM broadcast channel the blaze marked “the destruction of 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.”

He added: “We can be only horrified by what we see.”

Bystanders stand on bridges across the River Seine as they watch flames and smoke billowing from the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images
A firefighter uses a hose to douse flames and smoke billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

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. As the spire fell, the sky lit up orange.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is in despair at the “terrible fire.” Hidalgo said in a Twitter message that Paris firefighters are still trying to limit the fire and urged Paris citizens to respect the security perimeter that has been set around the cathedral.

Hidalgo said Paris authorities are in touch with Paris diocese.

Reactions from around the world came swiftly.

In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris” and suggested first responders use “flying water tankers” to put it out.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said he was praying “to ask the intercession of Notre Dame, our Lady, for the Cathedral at the heart of Paris, and of civilization, now in flames! God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze.”

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
 

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!

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A woman reacts as she watches the flames engulf the roof of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images
Smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images