PARIS – On Monday night, a big fire broke out in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, during which part of the church steeple of the historic church collapsed as the flame spread on the roof.
André Finot, spokesman for the cathedral, said in a telephone interview that the cause of the fire had remained unknown and there was no immediate indication that anyone had been injured.
"It's not about faith – Notre Dame is a symbol of France," said Emmanuel Guary, a 31-year-old actor who arrived at the Rue Rivoli under a huge crowd on the rue Rivoli. Many had tears in their eyes.
The fire alarm went first at 18:30, Mr. Finot said, adding that the cathedral had been evacuated. The Paris Public Prosecutor's Office stated that it had initiated a preliminary investigation.
When the last onslaught attempted to enter the day, the doors of Notre-Dame were abruptly closed without explanation, witnesses said. Within a few moments, tiny white particles of smoke rose from the top of the spire – which at 295 feet was the highest part of the cathedral.
The smoke escaped, turning gray and then black, making it clear that a fire was growing inside the cathedral, which is currently covered with scaffolding. Soon, orange flames sprang from the spire and rapidly increased in intensity.
The French police stormed in and started blowing whistles, inviting everyone to retire, witnesses said. At this time, the flames rose from several parts of the cathedral. Tourists and residents came to a standstill and pulled out their phones to call their relatives. The older Parisians began to cry and complained how their national treasure was quickly lost.
Thousands stood on the banks of the Seine, watching the fire rip through the wooden roof of the cathedral, destroying part of the spire. A video filmed by viewers and shared on social media showed smoke and flames leaking from the top of the cathedral.
Vincent Dunn, a fire consultant and former fire chief in New York City, said fire extinguishers could not reach the top of a cathedral, and reaching the top by foot was often a laborious climb across winding stairs.
"These cathedrals and prayer houses are built for burning," he said. "If they were not places of worship, they would be condemned."
Mayor Anne Hidalgo from Paris said on Twitter that "a terrible fire" had been struck in the cathedral.
"The Paris firefighters are trying to stop the flames," said Ms. Hidalgo, "I ask everyone to respect the safety limits."
The Paris police warned people against staying away from the cathedral which is one of the most famous landmarks in the city and attracts around 13 million visitors annually.
Town Hall will be announced around 20:30 All streets on the Île de la Cité, the island in the heart of the city, in the Notre Dame
The cathedral, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, is undergoing major renovations and several statues were lifted from the top of the tower by a crane last week.
Glenn Corbett, Professor of Fire Science at the University John Jay College, New York, said construction and renovations have long been a dangerous combination.
There is a history of churches and churches nd synagogues and other prayer houses that are victims of construction, "he said.
One of the reasons for the danger, Corbett said, was the proximity of open flames to torches and sparks from welders and other dangers on scaffolding for other flammable materials. Like the wooden roof of Notre-Dame, these materials are often high and difficult to achieve with fire suppression methods such as water from hoses.
"It hurts to observe this," said Pierre-Eric Trimovillas, 32. "The Cathedral is the symbol, the heart of Paris."
The crowd gasped and cried as the tower fell, Mr. said Trimovillas added, "Paris is beheaded."
The crowd that gathered was eerily quiet, with little shouting or excitement.
Angelique de Almeida, 32, looked through tears, "We will they lose, everything is on fire, "she said." We lose that, we lose Paris, it's apocalyptic, and this is Holy Week. "
French President Emmanuel Macron has canceled a major speech scheduled for Monday evening, in he is to announce action against the Yellow Vest protest movement that has been stirring the country in recent months
Mr Macron said on Twitter : "Like all of our fellow citizens, I'm sad this evening, tonight to see 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 strength and our French friends. Together with them, we hope that no one will be hurt by the fire. "
In an obvious response, the French authorities have tweeted a message from President Trump, who suggested using" flying water tankers "to stop the fire, emphasizing the use of fire-fighting aircraft was too dangerous for the cathedral.