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Excerpt: "Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the world's most famous churches, erupted in flames Monday in Paris."

A man watches the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral burn in central Paris on Monday. (photo: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/Getty Images)
A man watches the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral burn in central Paris on Monday. (photo: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/Getty Images)


Spire Falls at Paris' Notre Dame as Cathedral Is Engulfed in Flames

By Amy Held and Laurel Wamsley, NPR

15 April 19

 

otre Dame Cathedral, one of the world's most famous churches, erupted in flames Monday in Paris.

Video showed flames leaping through the roof and dark smoke billowing into the sky. Observers gasped as the spire fell.

A cathedral spokesperson said that Notre Dame's wooden interior was burning and that the entire frame was likely to be destroyed, The Associated Press reports.

The fire broke out during Holy Week for the world's Roman Catholics. At least four masses a day take place at the cathedral. So far there have been no reports of injuries.

According to France 24, the cathedral closed at 6:45 p.m. local time, and the fire broke five or six minutes after.

Police in Paris asked people to avoid the area so emergency vehicles could pass. Shelters have been set up for residents who live near the cathedral.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo called the fire "terrible" and said firefighters are trying to control the flames. The city's deputy mayor said the cathedral had suffered "colossal damages."

French President Emmanuel Macron canceled an address to the nation that was planned. "Notre-Dame de Paris is in flames," he tweeted. "Emotion of an entire nation. Thinking of all Catholics and all French people. Like all our compatriots, I am sad this evening to see this part of us burn."

There was no immediate word on the cause of the blaze, but the structure has been undergoing a $6.8 million renovation project, including work on its spire.

Located on the Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine River, the soaring Gothic structure dates to the 13th century and was completed in the 15th century. The city said that it had closed all entrances to the isle.

The Notre Dame celebrated its 850th birthday in 2013. It attracts 12 million visitors each year. It is the most visited monument in France, ahead of the Eiffel Tower, according to the cathedral.

As flames engulfed the historic Gothic structure, many wondered why airplanes were not dropping water on the inferno, as firefighters do to combat forest fires. But the cathedral's urban setting makes such a mission too dangerous: it would involve dropping perhaps 6 tons of water, an unsafe proposition in a densely populated city. The intervention could destroy the cathedral in the effort to save it.

France's civil defense agency tweeted that a large drop of water could cause the entire structure to collapse, and endanger the firefighters below.

This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.

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