A large fire broke out at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris on Monday evening, causing part of the historic church’s spire to collapse as the blaze spread along its roof.
André Finot, a spokesman for the cathedral, said in a telephone interview that the cause of the fire remained unknown, and there was no immediate indication that anyone had been hurt.
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“It’s not about the faith — Notre Dame is a symbol of France,” said Emmanuel Guary, a 31-year-old actor who was among a huge crowd amassed on the Rue Rivoli, on the Right Bank. Many had tears in their eyes.
After part of the spire collapsed, the fire appeared to spread across the rooftop, where the growing flames licked the sky and projected a yellow smoke over the horizon.
The fire alarm first went off around 6:30 p.m., Mr. Finot said, adding that the cathedral had been evacuated.
As the last rush of tourists were trying to get in for the day, the doors of Notre Dame were abruptly shut without explanation, witnesses said.
Within moments, tiny bits of white smoke started rising from the spire. 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 punching out of the spire, quickly 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 multiple 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 being lost.
Thousands stood on the banks of the Seine river and watched in shock as the fire tore through the cathedral’s wooden roof and brought down part of the spire. Video filmed by onlookers and shared on social media showed smoke and flames billowing from the top of the cathedral.
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SOURCE: The New York Times, Aurelien Breeden