The 93-meter (305-foot) spire of the building collapsed, while authorities said 400 firefighters were battling the fire.

850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris partially gutted in massive fireTwitter / Hazel Pepania
news Fire Tuesday, April 16, 2019 - 07:30

A monstrous fire engulfed Paris' iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday evening, toppling its spire and causing damage to one of the world's most historic and recognised buildings.

The 12th-century Gothic cathedral was undergoing renovation work, which local media cited as one potential cause for the fire.

What we know so far:

  • The 93-meter (305-foot) spire collapsed.
  • Police said there were no reported deaths, but one firefighter sustained injuries.
  • Authorities said 400 firefighters were battling the fire.
  • Paris fire service said the cathedral's two gargoyle-studded rectangular towers have been saved.
  • Fire department authorities confirmed that the main structure has been "saved and preserved."
  • A part of the vault collapsed and only a part of the interior were destroyed.
  • Many priceless artworks and cultural relics were saved.
  • Investigators are treating the cause of the fire as an accident, currently ruling out arson or terrorism. 
  • Police evacuated the Ile de la Cite island in central Paris, where the church is situated.

'Notre Dame will rise again'

French President Emmanuel Macron canceled a major speech and wrote on Twitter before arriving at the scene: "Our Lady of Paris is in flames. A whole nation is emotional. My thoughts are with all Catholics and all in France. Like all our compatriots, I'm sad this evening to see this part of us burning.”

Macron spoke of the cathedral's huge cultural and historical value as he addressed reporters in front of the still-burning landmark. "Let's be proud, because we built this cathedral more than 800 years ago, we've built it and, throughout the centuries, let it grow and improved it. So I solemnly say tonight: we will rebuild it together."

He vowed to launch an international appeal for the restoration of the cathedral. 

Other world leaders responded with shock and dismay at the fire, which occurred days before the Easter holiday. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described Notre Dame as a "symbol of France and our European culture" and expressed solidarity with the French people.  

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that "Our Lady of Paris is Our Lady of all Europe.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said: "Tonight all Parisians and French people will mourn this symbol of our common history."

The Vatican said: "The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world."

US President Donald Trump said on Twitter that it was "horrible to watch" the cathedral go down in flames and suggested aerial water tankers be used to put out the fire.  

Following Trump's tweet, the French civil protection service said hundreds of firefighters were battling the fire, but they were not considering using aerial tankers to dump heavy loads water on the cathedral. 

"All means are being used, except for water-bombing aircraft which, if used, could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral."

Dan Snow, a British presenter known for his history programs, tried to offer hope amid the tragedy.

"It's overwhelming but remember that York Minster and Hampton Court burned in the 80s, Windsor Castle in the 90s and Cutty Sark in the 00s. Dresden's Frauenkirche, the Catherine Palace… What we build, we can rebuild. Their essence endures. Notre Dame will rise again.”

Structural damage

The 12th century building, immortalised in the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was undergoing renovation work due to "deterioration of structural elements."

In 2012, the Archbishop of Paris and the Diocese of Paris founded "The Friends of Notre Dame" to raise funds to fight the problem, with renovation and repair efforts ongoing. Michel Picaud, president of the foundation, told France 24 in 2017 that the costs were "estimated at a total of €100 million."

"There is no part of the building untouched by the irreparable loss of sculptural and decorative elements, let alone the alarming deterioration of structural elements," said the foundation.