The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Fire

15 April 2019 4:30pm
Notre Dame on fire in Paris

The Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the most historic landmarks in Paris and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, caught fire Monday evening and is at least partially destroyed.

Police said there were no deaths and it is unclear if there were any injuries. The fire broke out just before 7 p.m., minutes after the cathedral closed to the public. Around 30,000 people visit the church daily.

Church spokesperson André Finot told French media that the entire wooden interior, which dates from the 13th century, is burning and likely to be destroyed. "Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame," Finot said.

"The roof has entirely collapsed, there are flames coming out of the cathedral as if it were a torch. It looks like the Olympic torch from the back with flames coming through the roof," France 24 journalist Charli James reported live on air.

Emergency services said they were trying to salvage as much artwork as possible, with France24 reporting that nearly all of it was able to be removed and saved. AFP reported Monday night that emergency services said they are "not sure" if they'll be able to stop the fire.

Jean-Claude Gallet, chief of the Parisian fire brigade, said if the northern tower falls, "I'll let you imagine the damages." The Interior Ministry tweeted that 400 firefighters are on the ground fighting the flames.

France 24 reported that the Paris prosecutor has begun an investigation into how the fire started.

Construction on the Gothic cathedral started in 1163. Renovations had just begun recently, with 16 statues removed from the church last week as part of the repairs.

"Thinking of all the Catholics and all the French people. Like all our citizens, I am sad to see this part of ourself burn tonight," tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron, who canceled a planned speech after news of the fire.

"The firefighters of Paris are trying to control the flames. We are mobilized on the ground, in close collaboration with the Paris diocese. I urge everyone to respect the security perimeter," wrote the mayor, accompanied with photos of the cathedral covered in smoke.

Around 8.30 p.m. local time, around an hour and a half after the fire began, video footage no longer showed huge flames as firefighters began to get the fire under control. Paris police asked people to avoid the area and allow emergency vehicles clear access.

Twelve million people visited the cathedral in 2017, making it the most popular tourist attraction in all of Paris, according to the city's tourist office.

Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame helped cement the cathedral in popular culture, along with the Disney version of Quasimodo living in the gargoyle-filled tower.

"It's an emotional scene — people stopped and watching this monument which will most likely never be the same burns right in front of our eyes," said James on France 24.

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