Published:  03:08 AM, 16 April 2019

Fire breaks out at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris

Fire breaks out at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris Iconic Notre Dame cathedral is seen burning in Paris on Monday. -AP

Authorities are responding to a massive fire at Paris' Notre Dame cathedral, where video posted to social media shows the historic monument appearing nearly engulfed in smoke and flames. Firefighters responded to the scene around 7 p.m. local time on Monday, Le Monde reported.

The gravity of the fire is still to be determined, but firefighters told the local news outlet that the blaze was in the cathedral's attic. Several videos appear to show the monument's towering spire collapse as onlookers gasp from down below.The fire is "potentially linked" to renovation work in the building, firefighters told Agence France-Presse. André Finot, a spokesperson for the cathedral, expressed concern that the fire's destruction will be beyond repair.

"Everything is burning. The framework, which dates from the 19th century on one side and the 13th century on the other, there will be nothing left," he told Le Monde. "We have to see if the vault, which protects the cathedral, will be affected or not." Emmanuel Grégoire, first deputy to the mayor, said on local station BFM TV, according to Le Monde, that they have begun working "to try to save all the works of art that can be [saved.]"

Paris' Mayor Anne Hidalgo shared photos of the fire on Twitter and urged the public to keep a safe distance. France's President Emmanuel Macron postponed a major speech Monday evening due to the incident and arrived at the site.In a Twitter message, Macron said the emotion felt amid the flames is shared by all of France. "Like all our compatriots, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burning," he stated.

The medieval Catholic cathedral, famous for its French Gothic architecture, is roughly 856 years old with construction having begun in 1163, according to its website.The cathedral faced substantial damage and plunder during the French Revolution in the 1790s. In the 1800s, it underwent a 25-year restoration, recreating the original glass and sculptures, and adding a reconstruction of the original spire. That spire collapsed Monday.

In the 1900s, the cathedral again went through several rounds of restoration, including after World War II, to replace medieval glass damaged by bullets. Audrey Azoulay, director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which designated the cathedral a World Heritage Site in 1991, said her organization is standing by to aid France amid the historical tragedy.

"UNESCO is closely monitoring the situation and is standing by France's side to safeguard and restore this invaluable heritage," she tweeted.The monument, which does not charge admission, sees approximately 13 million visitors per year. Financial efforts to restore and preserve the church have been underway for some time amid concerns that it is eroding and crumbling.


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