PARIS – The Notre-Dame cathedral, the iconic symbol of the beauty and history of Paris, was scarred by an extensive fire on Monday evening that collapsed part of its delicate spire, bruised the Parisian skies with smoke and further disheartened a city already
The cause of the fire was not immediately known, André Finot, a spokesman for the cathedral, said in a telephone interview, and there was no immediate indication that anyone had been injured.
But the spectacle of flames leaping from the cathedral's wooden roof ̵
The fire broke out about 6:30 pm, upstaging President Emmanuel Macron, who canceled an important policy speech about how he would (19659005) "It is like losing a member of one's own family, "Said Pierre Guillaume Bonnet, a 45-year-old marketing director. "For me there are so many memories tied up in it," he said of the cathedral.
A jewel of medieval Gothic architecture built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre-Dame, others noted, was a landmark not only for Paris, where it squats firmly yet gracefully at its very center, but for all the world. The cathedral is visited by about 30,000 people a day and around 13 million people a year.
"This is just horrible," said Mohamed Megdoul, 33, and a film producer. "A thousand years of history that is being wiped away," he said brushing away tears.
As the last rush of tourists was trying to get in for the day, the doors of Notre-Dame were suddenly shut without explanation, witnesses said. Within moments, tiny bits of white smoke started rising from the spire – which at 295 feet was the highest part of the cathedral.
Billowing out, the smoke started turning gray, then black, making it clear that a fire was growing inside the cathedral, which is currently covered in scaffolding. Soon, orange flames began to break out of the spire, rapidly increasing in intensity.
The French police rushed in and started blowing whistles, telling everyone to move back, witnesses said. By then, the flames were towering, spilling out of several parts of the cathedral. Tourists and residents alike came to a standstill, pulling out their phones to call their loved ones. Older Parisians began to cry, lamenting how their national treasure was quickly lost.
Thousands stood on the banks of the Seine River and watched in shock as the fire tore through the wooden roof of the cathedral and brought down part of the spire.
Vincent Dunn, a fire consultant and former New York fire chief, said that fire hose streams could not reach the top of such and the cathedral, and that reaching the top on foot was often an arduous climb over the winding steps
"These cathedrals and houses of worship are built to burn," he said. "
Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris said on Twitter that" a terrible fire "had struck at the cathedral
" The Paris firefighters are currently trying to stop the flames, "Ms. Hidalgo said. "I ask everybody to respect the security boundaries."
The Paris Prosecutor's Office said he had opened an investigation
The Paris police warned people to stay away from the area around the cathedral. City Hall announced around 8:30 pm
Glenn Corbett, associate professor of fire science at John Jay College in New York, said the construction work and renovation had long been a dangerous combination. There is a history of churches and synagogues and other houses of worship falling victim to construction fire, "he said.
One of the reasons for the peril, Mr. Corbett said, was the proximity of open flames on torches, sparks from welders and other hazards on scaffolding to other flammable materials. Like the Notre-Dame's wooden roof, these materials are often high and difficult to reach with fire suppression methods like water from hoses
"It hurts to watch this," said Pierre-Eric Trimovillas, 32. "The cathedral is the symbol, the heart of Paris. "
The crowd gasped and cried in horror as the spire fell, Mr. Trimivillas said, adding, "Paris is beheaded."
The crowds that had gathered were eerily calm, with little shouting or commotion
Angelique de Almeida, 32, watched through tears. "We're going to lose it, everything is up in flames," she said. "We lose this, we lose Paris. It is apocalyptic. And this is the Holy Week. "
President Emmanuel Macron of France canceled a major speech that was scheduled for Monday evening, in which he was supposed to announce measures addressing the Yellow West protest movement that has roiled the country over the past months
Mr. Macron said on Twitter "Like all our fellow citizens, I am sad to see this part of us burn."
The German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, said in a tweet : "The burning of Notre Dame also hits us in the heart. Our thoughts are with all our forces and our French friends. Together with them, we hope that no one will be harmed by the fire. "
The French authorities, in an apparent response and tweet by President Trump suggesting using" flying water tankers "to stop the fire, of the firefighting planes was too dangerous for the cathedral  said on Twitter that "dropping water by plane on this type of structure could cause the whole structure to collapse."