FIREFIGHTERS have saved Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral from total destruction after a massive inferno wrecked part of the iconic landmark on Monday evening.
Dramatic drone pictures show the devastation caused by the savage blaze which has already laid waste to the 850-year-old church's spire and much of its Gothic roof.
Reuters49 Firefighters battled long into the night to tackle the blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral
BackGrid49 A haunting image shows the gold cross illuminated amid the wreckage
Sky.IT49 Aerial drone pictures show the devastation caused by the Notre Dame inferno
Sky.IT49 Officials in Paris feared the blaze could have destroyed the 850-year-old medieval church
AFP or licensors49 But firefighters now believe they have saved the main structure of the church from total destruction
Fire chiefs said the two towers and the main structure of the cathedral had been saved by 400 heroic firefighters after they battled long into the night.
By 2am local time, France's Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez said “the fire had decreased in intensity" as emergency workers battled to contain the rampaging flames.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:
- Huge blaze broke out at 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral at 5.30pm local time
- 300ft spire collapsed and Gothic roof turned to ash in ferocious blaze
- 400 firefighters battled inferno before main structure was saved
- Prosecutors ruled out arson but an investigation is underway – fire 'linked to renovation works'
- President Emmanuel Macron said 'We will rebuild' as Paris mourned loss
Emmanuel Gregoire, the deputy mayor of Paris, said the cathedral had suffered "colossal damages" and that emergency workers were trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored inside.
Among the most precious is a relic venerated as the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus Christ – considered Paris’s equivalent of the Crown Jewels – and its three stained-glass rose windows.
The Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo this morning tweeted her thanks to emergency services, saying they had formed a "human chain" to save relics stored inside the ancient structure.
WHAT CAUSED THE BLAZE?
French prosecutors have launched an investigation although arson has been ruled out.
It is believed a "stray flame" linked to £5million renovation work sparked the inferno in the loft at around 5.30pm local time.
An emergency service source said: "It appears that it all began as a relatively small fire linked to a stray flame in the roof.
"The fire was so high up that it was difficult to get to, meaning it soon spread across the roof, causing a terrible blaze."
Scaffolding which had been set up around the building has been decimated along with large parts of the cathedral itself, including the 300ft spire, which dates back to the mid-19th Century.
Police said no deaths have been reported although a firefighter has been "seriously injured".
49 The catastrophic fire wrecked the Gothic roof of the legendary Parisian landmark
BackGrid49 It is so far unknown what relics were damaged in the blaze
'WE WILL REBUILD'
President Emmanuel Macron, who went to the scene at the height of the blaze, promised: "We will rebuild".
Addressing crowds outside the burning landmark, he announced a public fund to collect donations for the building works.
He said: "The fire will go on for several days. I would like to thank the firefighters on behalf of the nation.
"At this time, the worst has been avoided.
"Notre Dame is our history, our imagination, where we've lived all our great moments, and is the epicentre of our lives.
"It's the story of our books, our paintings. It's the cathedral for all French people, even if they have never been. But it is burning and I know this sadness will be felt by all of our citizens."
French billionaire François-Henri Pinault, who is married to Hollywood actress Salma Hayek, immediately pledged €100million (£82m) to the cause.
This morning, experts are expected to begin their investigations into whether the structure is still stable.
It came as world leaders – from Theresa May to Angela Merkel – paid tribute to the symbol of France.
49 Pictures show that a turret on the cathedral has collapsed
AFP or licensors49 Dramatic pictures show the church's iconic spire collapsing
AP:Associated Press49 Jets of water are sprayed onto the roof of the medieval landmark
At the height of the blaze, Paris authorities admitted getting firefighters to the top of the building “was almost impossible.”
“It’s much too high up, and the only access is stone and spiral staircases – getting fire fighting crews up there is impossible,” said a source.
The wooden frame of the church, nicknamed “The Forest”, is “incredibly flammable” according to Notre Dame expert Daniel Christian.
In total, it contains around 1,300 trees and is believed to have contributed to the blaze spreading so quickly.
An emergency services source said that a water drop via plane or helicopter "was impossible" because the weight of the water dropped at low altitude would weaken the building and cause "extreme damage."
"Everything is collapsing," a cop near the scene said as the entire roof of the cathedral continued to burn.
AFP or licensors49 The spire, built in the 19th century, has been destroyed by the inferno
Getty – Contributor49 The fire has spread quickly and the entire wooden interior of the church was burning, an official said
Getty – Contributor49 The blaze continues to strengthen as night falls on the French capital
AFP or licensors49 An aerial picture of the troubled cathedral which marks the centre of Paris
AFP or licensors49 The fire erupted at the top of the medieval church this evening
Reuters49 Part of the cathedral's Gothic roof collapsed during the horrific blaze
Reuters49 Firefighters enter the ancient building in Paris which contains priceless art work
EPA49 President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte pay a visit to firemen fighting against the inferno
EPA49 The blaze has been linked to restoration work which is taking place at the cathedral
49 Firefighters are seen at the cathedral in the early hours of this morning
AFP or licensors49 The scaffolding can be seen still standing around the structure
AFP or licensors49 Much of the Gothic structure appeared to be burnt out
EPA49 A fire fighter can be seen trying to get to flames
Rex Features49 Firefighters worked throughout the night to control the blaze
Getty Images – Getty49 Witnesses were reduced to tears as they watched the horrific fire
Getty – Contributor49 Flames can be seen taking hold of the structure that took hold yesterday evening
Notre Dame fire – This is the moment the Spire collapses as blaze breaks out at the cathedral
The chief architect in charge of the works at the cathedral vowed to rebuild the damaged parts of the structure, telling Le Parisien: "We cannot leave Notre Dame in this state."
Firefighters cleared the area around the cathedral, which marks the very centre of Paris, while nearby buildings were evacuated.
Panicked locals expressed their concern for the medieval cathedral on Twitter.
One witness wrote: "It’s getting worse. But the fire brigade has turned up. Hard to see how the tackle this. The plume of smoke is already 100s of feet long."
An American chef, named only as AJ, watched the scene from a pub on a side street.
He told The Sun Online said: “I’m so sad. It’s not the first time it has burnt down. It’s my landmark. I live right here. It’s how I tell people to find me. It’s tragic.”
At one of the many barricades surrounding the cathedral, librarian Abigail Altman was in tears.
She said: “We had an event nearby tonight but no one could concentrate. I had to come here to see,” she said. “Everyone s do calm and respectful.”
LOCALS CRY IN THE STREET
New York tourists Laura and Kareem Cowart said: “It is a tragedy. The art. What’s inside. You can never replace it.”
Locals broke out in singing prayers in multiple places nearby.
One pulled up the words of a song dedicated to the Notre Dame, as tears rolled down his face.
“My heart bleeds,” said Bertrand, a finance executive. “I was at home when I heard the news. I’m here now praying with strangers.”
There was a cheer as more fire engines arrived. Blue lights flashed from the side streets and river boats.
A policeman shared photos of the blaze close up. “It’s going,” he said again.
French leader Macron, who postponed a televised speech to the nation because of the massive fire, looked solemn as he attended.
Notre Dame fire – An emotional crowd sings hymns in unity 300 yards from the ablaze Paris cathedral
AP:Associated Press49 Firefighters douse flames billowing from the roof as Eiffel Tower shines a light onto the famous cathedral
49 Firefighters, police, and churchmen risked their lives last night to carry priceless historical artefacts and religious relics away from the flames
49 Notre Dame was home to a number of priceless artefacts, rushed away from the blaze
49 The Mayor of Paris tweeted her thanks to first responders for forming 'a formidable human chain' to save irreplaceable objects
Our Lady of Paris: A history of Notre Dame
- One of the city's oldest and most recognisable buildings, work began on Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral in 1163.
- The original structure was completed nearly 200 years later, in 1345, and its name literally translates to "Our Lady of Paris".
- Some 13 million people now visit the Catholic landmark every year – more than 30,000 every day on average.
- It is believed to be the most visited structure in the French capital.
- The first stone of the original structure was laid in front of Pope Alexander III after the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, proposed the cathedral after his election in 1160.
- It grew iconic in popular culture through several artistic works, including the Victor Hugo novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was published in 1831 and adapted by Disney in 1996.
- The spire, which collapsed during the devastating fire, has undergone several changes in the building's history.
- The 13th century spire was dismantled during the French Revolution and later rebuilt in the 1860s.
- The cathedral's stained glass rose windows – at least one of which has been destroyed by the blaze – are also some of its most architecturally significant features.
- A brass plate set in stone outside the building also marks "Point Zero" in Paris, the centre of the city.
- It is the point in France from where all distances to Paris are measured.
- A message engraved around the stone reads: "Point zero des routes de France".
On Twitter, he wrote: “Notre Dame of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thoughts go out to all Catholics and all of France. Like all our countrymen, I'm sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
A defiant Macron later said: "We will rebuild."
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump bizarrely suggested that the fire could be put out with "flying water tankers".
He tweeted: "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!"
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo described it as a "terrible fire" and urged people at the scene to stay safe.
The legendary church is one the finest example of French Gothic architecture in Europe and one of the most visited buildings in the world.
Notre Dame – which means 'Our Lady’ – was build in 1160 and completed by 1260, and has been modified on a number of occasions throughout the century.
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It is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris and is visited by some 12 million people every year.
Officials at Westminster Abbey in London said they are "devastated for our friends" in Paris.
A post from its official Twitter account read: "Devastated for our friends at #NotreDame and for the people of France.
"You are in our thoughts and prayers tonight."
Twitter49 US President Trump has offered advice to those fighting the flames
Twitter49 French President Macron expressed his sadness at the devastating fire
Instagram49 Many, including footballer Neymar, shared this cartoon as they prayed for Paris
EPA49 Macron attends the scene outside the cathedral which has been devastated by a raging fire this evening
AFP or licensors49 A 'stray flame in the building's roof caused the inferno, an emergency services source said
Getty – Contributor49 The blaze destroys part of the cathedral's roof
AFP or licensors49 Firefighters douse the blaze with water in a bid to save the iconic building
AFP or licensors49 The blaze erupted from the top of the ancient cathedral this evening
EPA49 The 850-year-old church is one of the most visited buildings in the world
Reuters49 A major operation is currently underway to stop the blaze, authorities have said
EPA49 The blaze could be linked to renovation work which is currently taking place
AFP or licensors49 Stunned tourists have seen thick plumes of smoke filling the sky around the French capital
49 The blaze started at around 5.30pm local time this evening
49 Notre Dame's Wikipedia page has been updated to acknowledge the devastating fire
EPA49 Locals pray for a miracle as the fire decimates the legendary church
AFP or licensors49 Parisians watch as Notre Dame burns
AFP or licensors49 The cathedral is an iconic landmark and lies at the heart of the city
AFP or licensors49 The Crown of Thorns at Notre Dame is the cathedral's most precious relic
PA:Press Association49 The North Rose stained glass window in the cathedral is feared to have been destroyed by the fire