Flames cause 'colossal damages' to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Macron says 'we will rebuild'

The flames caused a 315-foot spire to topple over.

April 15, 2019, 6:33 PM

A fire has engulfed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, one of the city's most iconic sights.

The fire began at 6:50 p.m. local time Monday, the Paris fire department said, and continued to burn hours later.

A French firefighter official told reporters the main structure of the cathedral has been saved and the two iconic main towers are intact and have been saved as well.

French Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that authorities were evacuating people from buildings in the area -- including homes close to the cathedral.

PHOTO: Flames rise during a fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 15, 2019.
Flames rise during a fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 15, 2019.
Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

A spokesperson for the cathedral described the damage to French media as "colossal."

"Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame," the spokesperson said.

PHOTO: Flames rise during a fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 15, 2019.
Flames rise during a fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 15, 2019.
Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

First responders are currently trying to salvage priceless art stored inside the cathedral, said Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire. Last week, the statues of the apostles were removed for restoration, The Associated Press reported.

Images on social media show smoke and flames shooting from the top of Notre Dame as massive plumes of smoke billow into the sky above.

One video shows a spire toppling over as a result of the flames.

The fire may be connected to the recent restoration of the church, officials said. The restoration work costs 120 million euros, the Notre Dame Paris office told ABC News, adding that a fire alarm test conducted last week went well.

PHOTO: Flames burning the roof of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 15, 2019.
Flames burning the roof of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 15, 2019.
Julien De Rosa/EPA/Shutterstock

The roof has completely collapsed, witness John Dickas, an American professor living in Paris, told ABC News.

Large crowds have begun to gather around the scene. Some members of the crowd began to sing hymns as the cathedral burned.

PHOTO: A man watches Notre-Dame Cathedral burn in Paris, April 15, 2019.
A man watches Notre-Dame Cathedral burn in Paris, April 15, 2019.
Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

The cathedral was built around 1260 AD and towered over the city of Paris for centuries. Much of the facade and interior are true to their original designs.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed sadness at the sight of the historic building's demise, saying it captures the "emotion of an entire nation."

"Thinking of all the Catholics and all the French people," Macron wrote. "Like all of our countrymen, I am sad tonight to see part of us burning."

Monday is the start of Holy Week, the busiest and most important period of the liturgical year. Easter is on Sunday.

PHOTO: Fire fighters douse flames of the burning Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 15, 2019.
Fire fighters douse flames of the burning Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 15, 2019.
Benoit Tessier/Reuters

American Kelly Weymouth, who is currently studying abroad in Paris, said she was taking a sunset cruise on the Seine river with her mother when the fire broke out.

At one point, as the traffic on the river was stopped, Weymouth and about 40 fellow passengers from all over the world watched in horror for about 45 minutes as the fire destroyed the cathedral, she said.

The Frenchmen who were on the boat began to sob and embrace each other, Weymouth said, describing the moment as "very intense."

PHOTO: An image taken from a television screen shows an aerial view of the Notre-Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris.
An image taken from a television screen shows an aerial view of the Notre-Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris.
AFP/Getty Images
Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events