A raging fire that tore through Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris was under control early Tuesday after the blaze brought its towering spire and roof crashing to the ground, wiping out centuries of priceless heritage central to French culture and history.
French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the cathedral described as the soul of the nation and expressed relief that “the worst had been avoided” in a blaze that had at one point threatened the entire edifice.
Thousands of Parisians and tourists watched in horror from nearby streets cordoned off by the police as flames engulfed the building and officials tried to save as much as they could of the cathedral’s countless treasures, built up over centuries.
The inferno destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old UNESCO world heritage landmark, whose spectacular Gothic spire collapsed as orange flames and clouds of grey smoke billowed into the early evening sky.
Around 400 firefighters battled into the night to control the flames, declaring in the early hours of Tuesday that it was partially extinguished but completely under control, around nine hours after it broke out.
Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said “we can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved” as well as the two bell towers.
But “the whole of the roof has been devastated… a part of the vault has collapsed, the spire is no more”, fire brigade spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Gabriel Plus said.
Laurent Nunez, state secretary at the interior ministry, told reporters early Tuesday that with the immediate “danger of the fire over,” the focus would be on assessing the damage to the building’s structure.
Nunez said officials would meet shortly to see if the building was stable enough to allow fire services to go inside.