The iconic spire at the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has collapsed after a major fire broke out Monday. Video showed part of the roof of the cathedral collapsing into itself as the fire rages on.
"Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame," Notre Dame spokesperson Andre Finot told French media, according to the Associated Press.
The deputy mayor of Paris, Emmanuel Gregoire, said the cathedral had suffered "colossal damages," and the emergency services were trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored in the cathedral.
The Sécurité Civile of France, part of the French Ministry of Interior, said hundreds of members of the Paris Fire Brigade are doing all they can to get the fire under control and save the historic structure. The agency said in a tweet, "All means are being used, except for water-bombing aircrafts which, if used, could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral."
French President Emmanuel Macron arrived at the site to view the damage as firefighters continued what appeared to be a losing battle against the flames. The Ile de la Cité, the island in the Seine where the cathedral sits, was evacuated. Thousands of onlookers gathered along the banks of the river to watch the awful scene.
A collection of dramatic videos and photos quickly spread across social media on Monday, showing the roof and spire of the nearly 900-year-old cathedral engulfed in flames and massive amounts of smoke billowing up from its roof. No deaths have been reported so far, according to AP.
Authorities have not yet released the cause of the fire or any further information as to how the fight to suppress the flames has progressed. The fire may potentially involve renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said.
The Vatican expressed "great shock and sadness" about the fire at Notre Dame, calling the cathedral "a symbol of Christianity in France and in the world." In a statement, the Vatican said, "We express closeness to the French Catholics and the people of Paris and we assure our prayers for the firefighters and those who are doing everything possible to face this dramatic situation."
U.S. President Trump also commented on the fire Monday afternoon as he attended a roundtable conference in Minnesota."It's one of the great treasures of the world," he said. "It's part of our culture, it's part of our lives. That is a truly great cathedral and I've been there, I've seen it, and there is... no cathedral in the world like it. It is a terrible scene. It looks like it's burning to the ground."
Former U.S. President Barack Obama posted a photo of his family visiting Notre Dame along with a message that said, "Notre Dame is one of the world's great treasures, and we're thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It's in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it's also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can."
Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can. pic.twitter.com/SpMEvv1BzB
Notre Dame was constructed in 1163 during the reign of King Louis VII and was completed in 1345. The cathedral is a worldwide Parisian icon and site of some of the most important moments in the history of France. Henry VI of England was crowned inside the cathedral in 1431 and Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France inside the cathedral in 1804.
The cathedral receives 12 to 13 million visitors a year and is home to countless paintings, sculptures and other priceless works of art. James Shepherd, director of preservation and facilities at the Washington National Cathedral, spoke with CBSN on Monday.
"That's 800 years of history of people pilgrimaging there, and worshiping there, and the accumulation of culture," Shepherd said by phone. "All of that will have to be taken into consideration as they try to repair this church and save it after this devastating fire."
Shepherd also spoke of Notre Dame's "stunning and exclusive stained-glass windows," which appear to have been destroyed in the fire. He called them "absolutely priceless and some of the best examples of European stained-glass windows."
"This is a culturally devastating moment for the city of Paris, the country and the world," added Shepherd.
More social posts below:
I’m weeping. Our gift of light. Notre Dame on fire. My heart is breaking. My grandmother’s and mother’s heart home.