The spire and roof of the 850-year-old medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame, UNESCO world heritage landmark in Paris, has been ravaged by a devastating fire. With the effort of firefighters the main structure including the two bell towers, has been saved.
The fire began on Monday afternoon and quickly reached the roof of the cathedral, destroying its stained-glass windows and the wooden interior before toppling the spire.
Some 500 firefighters worked to prevent one of the bell towers from collapsing. One fireman was severely injured tackling the blaze, but no fatalities were reported.
More than four hours later, fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet said the main structure had been “saved and preserved” from total destruction.
French president Emmanuel Macron called it a “terrible tragedy”. He said the worst has been avoided, but warned the fire would likely continue to burn for several days, cautioning: “the battle is not yet totally won”. He praised the courage and professionalism of firefighters.
The cause of the fire is not yet clear. Officials say it could be linked to the renovation work that began after cracks appeared in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable.
Macron asked the country to commit to rebuilding Notre Dame together, announcing an international fundraising campaign to raise money for the repairs. A site taking online donations has been launched.
Thousands of people gathered in the streets around the cathedral, observing the flames in silence. Some could be seen openly weeping, while others sang hymns or said prayers.
Expressions of support and commiseration have poured in from leaders around the world.
French billionaire François-Henri Pinault, the chairman, and CEO of international luxury group Kering pledged 100 million euros towards rebuilding Notre Dame, according to a statement.
The Vatican expressed “shock and sadness,” adding that it was praying for the French fire services.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has offered her support to the people of France, calling Notre-Dame a “symbol of French and European culture”.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a tweet: “My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre-Dame cathedral”.
US President Donald Trump also said on Twitter, it was “horrible to watch” the fire and suggested that “flying water tankers” could be used to extinguish the blaze.
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