On Monday night, onlookers raised their voices in song outside of Notre Dame Cathedral while Paris firefighters battled a horrific blaze.
The cathedral is one of France’s most adored attractions. The fire that broke out burned for several hours, eventually causing the collapse of the emblematic spire that towers above the cathedral.
The spire leaned heavily towards one side and then fell atop the burning roof as locals watched, terrified.
According to Laurent Nunez, secretary to the interior minister, both towers of the cathedral were deemed safe from total destruction by late Monday night.
Throughout the day, flames and thick quills of smoke billowed out of the cathedral, including the spire and the bell tower. Rescue workers frantically rushed to evacuate priceless artwork.
Cause of fire unknown
At the time of writing, it is not known what caused the fire to break out. The Notre Dame Cathedral has been surrounded by scaffolding because of construction work. The initial call to emergencies reported a fire in the cathedral’s attic.
Roughly 400 firefighters were sent to handle the inferno. Fire trucks had a tough time getting to the scene due to afternoon rush hour traffic. Police urged the public to stay out of the area.
Firefighters stood on top of cherry picker cranes to spray water onto the church to quell the flames. One firefighter was severely injured in the fire, according to Paris Fire Brigade Commander General Jean-Claude Gallet.
Witness account of the fire
A Paris local named Thibaud Binétruy said he saw smoke billowing from the cathedral while on his daily walk home from work.
“When the spire fell, the crowd reacted with ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh,’ but I guess most of them were just shocked silently,” Binétruy said, adding “It’s awful to see such a symbol disappearing in front of you. It’s been there for so many years and in a few minutes, half of it disappeared… crazy. Paris without Notre Dame, madness.”
A French icon
The foundation stone for Notre Dame was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III, with the cathedral’s construction eventually being completed in the 13th century. Today, it is considered a feat of European architecture, in addition to being a cultural and religious symbol of France.