UPDATED: A massive fire that broke out at the historic Notre-Dame cathedral in the center of Paris was contained by Tuesday morning but left most of the roof destroyed. The church’s famous bell towers appear to have been saved. One firefighter has been seriously injured, while most of the art collection has also been saved.
French president Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the damaged medieval structure, saying that “it’s what our history deserves.” Notre-Dame is the most-visited monument in Europe, with 13 million visitors a year.
AFP reported that the Paris fire department said the blaze was “potentially connected” to a $6.8 million renovation project currently under way. Extensive scaffolding can be seen along the roof line. The Paris prosecutor has opened a preliminary investigation to look into the causes of the fire, which are still uncertain at this point, according to Le Monde newspaper. However, they are not considering arson or terrorism at this time.
Notre-Dame cathedral, which was preparing for huge crowds as Easter week begins, is located on the Ile de la Cite, one of two islands in the Seine river, which runs through the heart of Paris. The roof was engulfed in huge flames, sending smoke billowing into the skies of Paris.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted, “I do not have strong enough words to express the pain that I feel when I see #NotreDame being ravaged by flames. Tonight, all Parisians and Frenchmen mourn this emblem of our common history. From our motto, we will find the strength to rise back up.”
As the fire raged, Macron said: “Our Lady of Paris is in flames. Emotion for the whole nation. A thought for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
Numerous films have been based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
The fire was declared at 6:50 p.m. Monday, Paris time. The collapse of the cathedral’s iconic spire was captured on video.