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Notre Dame towers declared safe from fire

April 15, 2019 10:35 PM

UPDATE: 

A French official and the Paris fire chief say they think Notre Dame Cathedral's landmark rectangular towers have been saved from the fire that caused horrific damage.

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Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez said late Monday that authorities remain "prudent" but are "much more optimistic" than earlier in the night.

Paris fire commander Jean-Claude Gallet said a major accomplishment of hundreds of firefighters was stopping the flames from spreading to the north tower belfry.

Gallet says two-thirds of Notre Dame's roofing "has been ravaged." He says one firefighter was injured.

He says fire crews will keep working overnight to cool down the structure.


A massive fire engulfed the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of the French capital Monday, toppling its spire and sending thick plumes of smoke high into the blue sky as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below.

A spokesman said the entire wooden frame of the cathedral would likely come down, and that the vault of the edifice could be threatened too.

"Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame," Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told French media. The 12th-century cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world's most famous tourist attractions.

The cause of the catastrophic blaze was not known, but French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire is "potentially linked" to a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the church's spire and its 250 tons of lead. Paris police said there were no reported deaths.

Flames shot out of the roof behind the nave of the cathedral, among the most visited landmarks in the world. Sights of the flames stopped passers-by in their tracks along the Seine River that passes beneath the cathedral.

French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a televised speech to the nation because of the stunning blaze and was going to the cathedral himself.

Macron tweeted after the blaze broke out in the cathedral's spire on Monday he was sad to see "a part of us being on fire."

French historian Camille Pascal told BFM broadcast channel the fire was destroying "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."

He recalled that Notre Dame bells sounded the death knell following the 2015 Paris attacks.

"We can be only horrified by what we see," Pascal said. 

Speaking to BFMTV, Deputy Mayor of Paris Emmanuel Gregoire said first responders now trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored in the cathedral.

Associated Press reporters at the scene saw massive plumes of yellow brown smoke filling the air above the Cathedral and ash falling on the island that houses Notre Dame and marks the center of Paris.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is in despair at the "terrible fire." Hidalgo said in a Twitter message that Paris firefighters are still trying to limit the fire and urged Paris citizens to respect the security perimeter that has been set around the cathedral.

Hidalgo said Paris authorities are in touch with Paris diocese.

U.S. President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter after the fire broke out Monday: "So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris" and made suggestions for how first responders should tackle it.

He said: "Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out," adding: "Must act quickly!"

The Basilica of Saint Mary released the following statement Monday night:

"The Basilica of Saint Mary stands in prayer and support with the Notre Dame Cathedral community and the city of Paris. We pray for the safety of the first responders working to manage the fire.

"During this Holy week, Catholics around the world are saddened by the destruction of the iconic cathedral. The loss of precious relics, irreplaceable art, striking architecture, rich history and culture, are simply devastating.

"We invite our community to join us in prayer and to share a message to the people of Paris. A book of messages will be placed on the Altar of the Sacred Heart in The Basilica. This book will be sent to the Archbishop of Paris."

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Credits

Associated Press

(Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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