Nearly five hours after Notre-Dame Cathedral, one of the most famous landmarks in Paris, caught on fire Monday evening around 6:30 p.m. local time, French officials have declared the church’s iconic rectangular towers safe from the fire.
“A terrible fire is underway at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris,” Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, said in a tweet earlier, pointing out that firefighters were attempting to bring the blaze under control. “I invite everyone to respect the security perimeter,” she added.
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
At one point France’s Interior Ministry said that firefighters may not be able to save the structure. But just before 11 p.m. local time, Paris fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet said that firefighters had stopped the fire from spreading into the north tower’s belfry and that the iconic rectangular towers were safe. Firefighers will continue to work overnight to cool off the building.
The area directly around the Gothic church has been cleared by the police, but passersby posted videos and photos to social media from across the Seine as smoke and flames engulfed the spire of the cathedral. Just before 8 p.m. Paris time, the spire collapsed.
The moment #NotreDame’s spire fell pic.twitter.com/XUcr6Iob0b — Patrick Galey (@patrickgaley) April 15, 2019
Soon after, the roof collapsed. Notre-Dame spokesman Andre Finot told French media that the entire wooden frame of the church is likely to come down. “Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame,” he said.
Emergency teams are attempting to save some of the invaluable art pieces that are stored in the cathedral, which is known for its gargoyles, flying buttresses, and iconic stained-glass rose windows.
As night fell, Parisians gathered across the river from Notre-Dame to sing hymns.
Ave Maria pic.twitter.com/lb6Y5XV05a — Ignacio Gil (@Inaki_Gil) April 15, 2019
Paris police report that there have been no deaths related to the fire, but one firefigher has been seriously injured. Officials are still uncertain of how it started. But the city’s fire brigade was quoted in the French media saying that the blaze is “potentially linked” to a €6 million (US$6.8 million) renovation project that was underway on the church’s spire. The Paris prosecutor’ office has ruled out arson and possible terror-related activity as causes.
Located on Île de la Cité, the small island in the center of Paris, Notre-Dame is the city’s most popular landmark. In 2017, 12 million people visited the cathedral, according to data from the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Associated Press contributed reporting. This article originally appeared online on April 15, 2019, and is being updated as new information emerges.
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