Devastating Notre Dame Cathedral fire fully extinguished after 9 hours
The massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was extinguished early Tuesday after a nine-hour battle, authorities said.
"The cathedral’s structure has been saved and the main works of art are safe," the French city's fire service said in a tweet.
The blaze caused the historic cathedral's roof to collapse, destroyed a spire and spread to one of the building's two rectangular towers. The sight brought many onlookers to tears.
No one was killed, but two police officers and a firefighter were injured.
The fire started at 6:50 p.m. after the site had closed to the public. Around 400 firefighters worked through the night to cool the building and secure the monument, as residual sparks sprinkled down from the gaping hole where the spire used to be.
A fire broke out at the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said. Images posted on social media showed flames and huge clouds of smoke billowing above the roof of the Gothic cathedral, the most-visited historic monument in Europe.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the country's citizens must push through their sadness.
"So with pride I tell you tonight that we will rebuild this cathedral, all together," Macron added. "It's part of the fate, the destiny of France, and our common project over the coming years. And I am committed to it."
Macron said a national fundraising campaign to restore Notre Dame would be launched Tuesday, and he called on the world's "greatest talents" to help.
Pledges from French businessmen have already started rolling in. Billionaire Bernard Arnault's family and his LVMH luxury goods group — which is behind Louis Vuitton — said that they would donate €200 million ($226 million). And Francois Henri Pinault, the head of the Kering — which owns brands including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent — vowed to donate €100 million ($113 million).
© Bertrand Guay Firefighters douse flames rising from the roof at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019.
The Paris prosecutors’ office ruled out arson and possible terrorism-related motives, and said it was treating the fire as an accident, The Associated Press reported.
"I'm devastated," said Elizabeth Caille, 58, who lives in the neighborhood. "It's a symbol of Paris. It's a symbol of Christianity. It's a whole world that is collapsing."
Flames could be seen near scaffolding — high at the top of the famous church where $6.8 million in renovations were being completed — and billowing smoke was visible from miles away in the French capital.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that many of the precious artifacts inside the cathedral, including a relic believed to be worn by Jesus Christ which was stored in the collapsed spire, had been saved.
"The crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place," Hidalgo said in French on Twitter.
Culture Minister Franck Riester posted photos of French authorities loading art and other historic pieces into a truck social media.
"They are gradually being put into safety," Riester said.
Michel Picaud, from the Friends of Notre Dame organization responsible for the renovation efforts, told NBC News that, to his knowledge, the church's organ and some of its stained glass windows were not damaged.
"The entire roof is fully destroyed," Picaud said. "The fire started up near the roof top while another fire started in the north bell tower."
The massive blaze also spread to one of the church's landmark rectangular towers. Flames could be seen blazing behind an oblong stained-glass window in one of the towers.
Onlookers were in tears as they witnessed the flames destroying one of Paris' most famed and popular landmarks.
"A lot of people are crying," witness Carolyn Marguiles told NBC News in a phone interview moments before she spotted the roof falling. "Oh my God, it just fully collapsed!"
Another witness, Nicholas Marang, was running by the Seine River when he spotted smoke — but didn't immediately realize Notre Dame was on fire. He whipped out his phone and took footage of the spire's fall.
"It was an absolute nightmare," Marang, a 47-year-old consultant, told NBC News. "I ran to the cathedral and saw the spire of the cathedral falling."
When the spire burned down, Marang said a part of him fell as well.
"Something just collapsed inside me," he added. "One of the worst things I've ever seen."
French historian Camille Pascal told broadcaster BFM that the fire marked "the destruction of invaluable heritage."
"It's been 800 years that the cathedral watches over Paris," Pascal said. "Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre Dame."
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said he was praying that "God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze."
Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College in New York, said there is a history of churches, synagogues and temples going up in flames during renovations — as workers use torches or welding or cutting equipment that could be sources of ignition.
"If there is a most vulnerable time for a church, it is when it is under construction because we get people who are using torches or welding or cutting that are of course emitting forces," Corbett added.
The house of worship, with roots dating back to the 12th century, is considered one of the world's greatest examples of French Gothic architecture .
Construction of Notre Dame began in 1163 under the reign of King Louis VII, and the first stone was laid in the presence of Pope Alexander III.
The landmark was not considered complete until nearly 200 years later, however, with the installation of flying buttresses and a stone fence surrounding the choir and the sanctuary, according to the website for Notre Dame de Paris.
The Associated Press reported that $19 million was set aside in 1991 for a restoration project to replace loose stones on the cathedral.
Nine bronze bells were made in 2013, the church’s 850th anniversary, in order to replace deteriorating artifacts.
Sixteen copper statues were removed from the spire on Friday as part of a restoration effort that was estimated to cost more than $900,000, Agence France Presse reported.