A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris’ soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below.
The Paris chief of police said the structure of Notre Dame cathedral has been saved and a catastrophic fire stopped from spreading to the northern belfry.
The blaze collapsed the cathedral’s spire. A spokesman said the entire wooden frame of the cathedral would likely come down, and that 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, immortalized by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE FIRE
The fire started at 6:50 p.m. local time, according to city fire officials, and began to quickly spread.
The cause of the blaze was not known, but French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire is “potentially linked” to a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the church’s spire and its 250 tons of lead. Prosecutors opened an investigation as Paris police said there were no reported deaths. Some 400 firefighters were battling the blaze well into the night.
Flames shot out of the roof behind the nave of the cathedral, among the most visited landmarks in the world. Hundreds of people lined up bridges around the island that houses the cathedral, watching in shock as acrid smoke rose in plumes.
As ABC News aired the fire live, the spire collapsed. A church spokesman told French media that, after the collapse, all of the cathedral’s frame began burning, AP reports.
Associated Press reporters at the scene saw massive plumes of yellow-brown smoke filling the air above the Cathedral and ash falling on the island that houses Notre Dame and marks the center of Paris. As the spire fell, the sky lit up orange.
A before photo shows that spire three weeks ago.
This March 23, 2019 photo shows the spire atop the Notre Dame cathedral surrounded in scaffolding as crews made repairs to the structure. Part of the spire collapsed in the fire.