A massive fire consumed Notre-Dame Cathedral on Monday, gutting the roof of the Paris landmark and stunning France and the world, though firefighters saved the main bell towers and outer walls from collapse before bringing the blaze under control.
Flames that began in the early evening burst rapidly through the roof of the eight-centuries-old cathedral and engulfed the spire, which toppled, quickly followed by the entire roof.
The fire, after burning for about 8 hours, was largely extinguished by 0300 CET on Tuesday. Earlier, in addition to battling to prevent one of the main bell towers from collapsing, firefighters tried to rescue religious relics and priceless artwork. One firefighter was seriously injured - the only reported casualty.
“The worst has been avoided,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at the scene shortly before midnight.
Macron said France would launch a campaign to rebuild the cathedral, which is considered to be among the finest examples of French Gothic cathedral architecture, including fundraising efforts and by appealing to “talents” from overseas to contribute.
The cathedral’s main stone structure had escaped complete destruction by the time the fire came under control.
- ART WORKS RESCUED
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said at the scene that some of many artworks that were in the cathedral had been rescued and were being put in safe storage.
The cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, features in Victor Hugo’s classic novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.” It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts millions of tourists every year.
The fire at Notre-Dame has already prompted fundraising appeals in the United States, while in France the billionaire chief executive of Kering, the luxury group behind brands like Gucci, was quoted in a statement to AFP as saying he would pledge 100 million euros ($113 million) to rebuilding efforts.
The cathedral, which was built over a century starting in 1163, was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding, and bronze statues had been removed last week for works.
Notre-Dame is renowned for its rib vaulting, flying buttresses and stunning stained glass windows, as well as its many carved stone gargoyles.
Its 100-metre-long (330-foot) roof, of which a large section was consumed in the first hour of the blaze, was one of the oldest such structures in Paris, according to the cathedral’s website.
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