A fire ravaged Notre Dame cathedral in Paris Monday afternoon, just days before Easter Sunday.
Photos and videos on social media showed flames and smoke engulfing the 850-year-old Gothic cathedral and the scaffolding surrounding it. The spire can be seen in gut-wrenching footage giving way and toppling over into rest of the burning church. The wooden roof fell in as well.
Authorities said the cause is likely related to the restoration work on the cathedral that was in progress.
“It appears that it all began as a relatively small fire linked to a stray flame in the roof,” an emergency services source said, according to The Sun.
“The fire was so high up that it was difficult to get to, meaning it soon spread across the roof, causing a terrible blaze.”
The area around the massive church was evacuated, and as night fell in Paris firefighters were still working to control the blaze.
“Notre Dame Fire in progress,” a tweet from police said. “Avoid the area and facilitate the passage of emergency vehicles and intervention of the @prefpolice.”
A spokesman for Notre Dame, Andre Finot, originally stated to French media outlets that “Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame.”
However, after hours of battling the blaze, the chief of Paris firefighters said they had managed to keep the main structure “saved and preserved in its entirety.”
One firefighter was reportedly seriously injured from the fire.
Roommate just sent this of Notre Dame on fire in Paris woowwww pic.twitter.com/NEMs33AHYD
— Process Guy (@leistomania93) April 15, 2019
— Leigh (@MamaEmerson) April 15, 2019
— Patrick Galey (@patrickgaley) April 15, 2019
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo issued an alert on Twitter warning those in the vicinity not to breach the security perimeter.
“A terrible fire is underway at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” she said. “The fire brigade are trying to control the fire. We are mobilized locally in close connection with church authorities. I ask everyone to respect the security perimeter.”
French President Emmanuel Macron cancelled a planned speech as news of the fire broke, according to Élysée Palace, and travelled to the scene of the fire along with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
“Like all our compatriots, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burn,” Macron wrote on Twitter.
President Trump expressed his condolences for the disaster on Twitter and offered a potential solution, “flying water tankers,” to put out the flames.
“So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” he wrote. “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
French authorities appeared to respond to the U.S. president’s suggestion, objecting that “dropping water by plane on this type of structure could cause the collapse of the entire structure.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan and British Prime Minister Theresa May also sent messages of support.
“My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre-Dame cathedral,” May said.
The Vatican expressed its devastation at the news.
“The Holy See has learned with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, symbol of Christianity, in France and in the world,” the Vatican said in a statement. “We express our closeness to the French Catholic and to the people of Paris. We pray for the fire fighters and for all those who are doing everything possible to face this dramatic situation.”
Nicolas Delesalle, a journalist for Paris Match, reported that “all the artworks have been saved” as well as the Eucharist and some relics, citing comments from one of the priests at Notre Dame.
Construction of the cathedral, which draws over 13 million visitors annually, was completed in the 13th century. After French revolutionaries damaged it, it was restored in 1844 and 1864, but afterwards fell into disrepair. The cathedral was once again undergoing renovation when Monday’s fire broke out.
“Assuredly, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Paris is, to this day, a majestic and sublime edifice,” Victor Hugo wrote in his 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which helped spur the previous effort to restore the church. “But noble as it has remained while growing old, one cannot but regret, cannot but feel indignant at the innumerable degradations and mutilations inflicted on the venerable pile, both by the action of time and the hand of man.”