Hundreds of people have watched on in shock as a raging blaze this evening devastated the 800-year-old Notre Dame cathedral in France, one of the most famous landmarks in the world. Shocking pictures showed Notre Dame’s spire being engulfed by roaring flames before it collapsed. Dark plumes of billowing smoke rose high into the air above the Gothic building, a major destination for tourists. A major operation is underway by the fire department at the cathedral located on the Ile de la Cite in the 4th arrondissement.
President Emmanuel Macron is now at the scene speaking to senior police officers after cancelling a television address he had been due to give to the nation on Monday night.
He tweeted: “Our Lady of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thought for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
Earlier, Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted: “A terrible fire is underway at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.”
The 12th-century cathedral is the setting for Victor Hugo’s classic novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
Devastated Parisians have described their heartbreak at seeing the fire’s devastation.
Witness Samantha Silva, speaking with tears in her eyes, said: “I have a lot of friends who live abroad and every time they come I tell them to go to Notre-Dame.
“I’ve visited it so many times, but it will never be the same. It’s a real symbol of Paris.”
The Gothic building is renowned for its rib vaulting, stained glass windows, flying buttresses and carved stone gargoyles.
What caused the fire?
Notre Dame was in the middle of renovations when the fire started at 6pm BST (7pm local time), with sections of scaffolding in place.
French media have reported the blaze might be linked to the renovations.
Firefighters were seen trying to douse the flames with water.
US President Donald Trump tweeted his support, suggesting “flying water tankers” might be used in the fight to battle the flames.
He wrote: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
Witness Jacek Poltorak said: “Basically the whole rooftop is gone. I see no hope for the building.”