April 16, 2019 05:15:52
A massive fire has engulfed the roof of Notre Dame cathedral in the heart of the French capital, toppling its spire and sending thick plumes of smoke high into the blue sky as tourists and Parisians watched in horror from the streets below.
Flames that began in the early evening burst through the roof of the centuries-old cathedral and engulfed the spire, which collapsed, quickly followed by the entire roof.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, which drew crowds of people to gather in nearby squares as a huge plume of smoke wafted across the city and ash fell over a large area.
A spokesman said the blaze was likely to bring the entire wooden frame of the cathedral down, and the vault of the edifice could be threatened too.
“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.
Speaking to BFMTV, Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said first responders were trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored in the cathedral.
French President Emmanuel Macron was rushing to the scene, having cancelled a major televised speech after the blaze broke out.
“Like all our compatriots, I am sad this evening to see this part of all of us burn,” he tweeted.
“Basically the whole rooftop is gone. I see no hope for the building,” said witness Jacek Poltorak, who was watching the fire from a fifth-floor balcony two blocks from the southern facade of the cathedral, one of France’s most visited places.
The cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century and is famous for featuring in Victor Hugo’s classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, attracts millions of tourists every year.
A major operation was underway, the fire department said, while a city hall spokesman said on Twitter the area was being cleared.
France 2 television reported police were treating the incident as an accident.
There have not been any reports of injuries in the blaze.
Notre Dame was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding, while bronze statues were removed last week for works.
The first stone of the Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) cathedral was laid in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII, as the medieval city of Paris was growing in population and importance, both as a political and economic centre of the kingdom of France.
Construction would continue for much of the next century, with major restoration and additions made in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The stonework and stained glass of the edifice recreate images and lessons from the Bible.
April 16, 2019 04:11:09