France vows to rebuild after devastating fire at Notre Dame

‘The worst has been avoided although the battle is not yet totally won’

France vows to rebuild after devastating fire at Notre Dame
Flames and smoke rise from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns in Paris on Monday. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of the soaring church as it was undergoing renovations, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus) (Thibault Camus)

(Gray News/AP) - French President Emmanuel Macron promised to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral in the aftermath of a devastating fire that gutted the Paris landmark.

The French president told reporters near the scene that he will seek international help, including the “greatest talents” in the world, to rebuild Notre Dame.

The historic church burned out of control for hours in the heart of Paris Monday evening. It the midst of the flames its spire and roof collapsed, sparking gasps from the thousands of people who watched the destruction in disbelief.

A full collapse appears to have been averted, however, with Laurent Nunez, the French secretary to the interior minister, saying the two iconic front-facing towers are safe with the fire “in a time of cooling.”

“We’re still working to save the Cathedral’s works of art,” Nunez said.

“The worst has been avoided although the battle is not yet totally won,” Macron told reporters.

Fire Chief Jean-Claude Gallet earlier expressed concern that his crews might not be able to contain the spread of the blaze, and that it could threaten to collapse the entire structure. CNN reported that one firefighter was seriously injured.

As night fell, yellow flames continued to roar within the shell of the historic church, and as the fire slowly began to die down, an orange glow lingered over it.

“It’s our national identity which is burning," the French ambassador to the U.S., Gerard Araud, told CNN.

Smoke filled the city’s skyline earlier as Notre Dame’s iconic spire collapsed and its rooftop burned. Emergency services responded to the scene, but the flames only seemed to grow taller and more intense before it could have any impact.

“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 French capital’s police department said no deaths have been reported from Monday’s fire. The police department didn’t say anything about injuries.

French President Emmanuel Macron mourned the loss of the cathedral.

“Notre Dame de Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation,” Macron said in a tweet translated from French. “Thought for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our compatriots, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”

Macron is treating the fire gutting Notre Dame as a national emergency.

He reached the landmark cathedral on Monday evening and went straight into meetings at the nearby Paris police headquarters.

France’s civil security agency said “all means” except for water-dropping aircraft were deployed to tackle the blaze. The defense agency said those were unsuitable for fires like the one at Notre Dame because dumping water on the building could cause the whole structure to collapse.

The Vatican issued a statement about the “terrible fire” that has “devastated” the cathedral.

The Vatican said: “The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”

The statement added that the Vatican is praying for firefighters “and those who are doing everything possible to confront this dramatic situation." It also expressed “our closeness to French Catholics and the population of Paris, and we assure our prayers for firefighters”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted, “all Parisians and French mourn this emblem of our common history.”

Deputy Paris mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told BFM TV, that there was “colossal damage”.

Social media captured the horrific images as fire and smoke engulfed the structure on Easter week, the holiest time on the Christian calendar.

The peak of the 12th century cathedral was undergoing a $6.8 million renovation project.

Just last week, the 16 copper statues that represent the 12 apostles and four evangelists were removed for restoration.

French media quoted the Paris fire brigade saying the fire is “potentially linked” to the renovation work.

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre Dame is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages as well as one of the most beloved structures in the world. Situated on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the Seine, the cathedral’s architecture is famous for, among other things, its many gargoyles and its iconic flying buttresses.

In this 1996 photo, Gargoyles watch over the streets of Paris from the top of Notre Dame cathedral. Notre Dame, with its gargoyles, is one of those most famous structures in the world.
In this 1996 photo, Gargoyles watch over the streets of Paris from the top of Notre Dame cathedral. Notre Dame, with its gargoyles, is one of those most famous structures in the world. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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 ... We can be only horrified by what we see."

Located on a small island in the middle of the River Seine in the heart of Paris, Notre Dame is more than 800 years old. According to the cathedral’s website, the building took 200 years to build.

About 50,000 tourists on average pass through Notre Dame each day during the summer season.

A group of Americans from Maine had just finished visiting Notre Dame Cathedral and were in a nearby park when they heard it was on fire.

Freeport resident Lucy Soule, 22, said it was “weird” having been in the church right before this happened. “Now you can smell it burning.” Soule and her father, Win Soule, 58, and Libby Heselton, 53, are on a weeklong trip to Paris where they planned to “see all the sights” and had just finished their visit to Notre Dame. They had been in the cathedral at 5:30 p.m., about an hour before the fire.

Win told The Associated Press, “it’s incredible. I’m not religious, but this is clearly very important to a lot of people.”

The building was almost demolished when Napolean saved it, and was crowned Emperor there in 1804.

U.S. President Donald Trump called the spectacle “so horrible to watch.”

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