Smoke billows as flames burn through the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral on April 15, 2019, in the French capital Paris. A huge fire swept through the roof of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky. The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year. A spokesman for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze.
AFP/Fabien Barrau
What we know so far: Notre Dame fire in Paris
Camille Bouissou (Agence France-Presse) - April 16, 2019 - 11:52am

PARIS, France — A fire that spread from the attic of Notre-Dame cathedral on Monday has caused its spire to crash to the ground, and devastated Paris's historical monument.

This is what we know so far about the violent blaze:

Fire in the attic

The fire began around 6:50 p.m. Monday (12:50 a.m. Tuesday, Philippine time). 

"I was not far away, I saw the smoke. At first, I thought it was the Hotel-Dieu (hospital) but then I realized it was the cathedral. When I arrived, ash was beginning to fall," said Olivier De Chalus, head volunteer guide of the cathedral.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately known. It spread from the attic, and quickly across a large part of the roof.

The flames devoured the roof's wooden frame, which is more than 100 meters in length and nicknamed "the forest."

An investigation was opened for accidental destruction by fire, Paris prosecutors said.

Investigators were focused on whether the fire spread from the site of ongoing reconstruction work on the roof of the cathedral, a source close to the investigation said.

Construction workers were spoken to Monday evening by investigators, the department said.

Fire 'under control'

Firefighters announced early Tuesday the fire was "completely under control" and "partially extinguished." Only "residual fires" were still burning.

Around 11 p.m. Monday (5 a.m. Tuesday, Philippine time), they announced that the structure of the cathedral had been "saved and preserved."

INFOGRAPHIC: Heritage sites devastated by fires

From the moment the fire was spotted, a major emergency operation was put in place to contain the blaze. 

Four hundred firefighters with 18 fire hoses, some perched on cranes tens of meters off the ground, battled to contain the fire as quickly as possible. 

However, using water-bombing aircraft — as suggested by US President Donald Trump — was not considered: "If used, (this) could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral," France's civil security service tweeted.

Extent of damage

At around 7.50 pm (1750 GMT), the cathedral's spire — one of Paris's most famous landmarks at 93 meters high — collapsed. 

Within a few hours, a large part of the roof had been reduced to ashes. 

The extent of the damage inside the cathedral was not yet known by around 11 p.m. Monday (5 a.m. Tuesday, Philippine time).

"The fire affected two-thirds of the roof, which has collapsed, as well as the spire," said Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet, adding that the operation was focussed on preserving the rear of the cathedral where the most valuable works are located.

The Holy Crown of Thorns and a sacred tunic worn by 13th-century French king Louis, two irreplaceable artifacts, had been rescued, the cathedral rector Patrick Chauvet said.

'Years of work'

Restoring the building will take "years of work", said the newly elected president of the Bishops' Conference of France, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort. 

In response to "multiple requests" the Fondation du patrimoine, a heritage organization, will Tuesday launch a "national collection" for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame, Anne Le Breton, deputy mayor of the French capital's 4th arrondissement, said in a statement to AFP.

Overnight the Pinault family, one of the richest in France, pledged 100 million euros ($113 million) for Notre-Dame.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who headed to the scene, said a "national undertaking" would be launched, and that "far beyond our borders, we will appeal to the greatest talents... who will contribute, and we will rebuild."

NOTRE DAME DE PARIS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 15, 2019 - 1:37pm

Follow updates on the Notre Dame Cathedral fire here.

June 15, 2019 - 1:37pm

The Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris will host its first mass, exactly two months after the devastating blaze that shocked France and the world.

For safety reasons, the mass led by Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit will be celebrated on a very small scale. Worshippers will be expected to don hard hats but priests will be wearing their ceremonial garb.

There will be just some 30 people -- half of them clergy -- although the mass will be broadcast live on Catholic TV channel KTO. — AFP

May 3, 2019 - 7:03pm

French citizens will be consulted on how Notre-Dame should be rebuilt after the iconic cathedral was ravaged by a fire on April 15, Culture Minister Franck Riester says.

"The French will be able to express themselves, and then we'll see which decision (will be taken) and how Notre-Dame will be restored," Riester tells LCI television. — AFP

April 21, 2019 - 3:23pm

The popularity of French President Emmanuel Macron remains stuck at under 30 percent as he battles a series of political troubles, with no major change reported after the Notre-Dame fire, a poll said Sunday.

According to the Ifop poll for the Journal du Dimanche just 29 percent of people polled said they are satisfied with the job Macron is doing, with 69 percent dissatisfied.

This April reading was unchanged from the last poll in March, the newspaper said.

The poll, carried out up until April 20, was published at the end of a dramatic week for Macron which saw him address the nation over the damage to the Notre-Dame cathedral in Monday's devastating fire. -- Agence France-Presse

April 19, 2019 - 10:00am

French President Emmanuel Macron hails as "exemplary" hundreds of firefighters who saved Notre-Dame in the devastating blaze, as efforts intensified to shore up the still fragile cathedral.

Some 600 firefighters worked throughout the night Monday to put out the fire at the Paris landmark and prevent an even worse disaster, in a blaze that felled the spire and destroyed two-thirds of its roof. — AFP

April 18, 2019 - 3:43pm

Catholic worshippers feeling orphaned by the fire that ravaged part of Notre-Dame will be welcomed in an "ephemeral cathedral" of wood in front of the Paris monument until it reopens, Notre-Dame's chief priest says Thursday.

Speaking to France's CNews television channel Monsignor Patrick Chauvet says: "We mustn't say 'the cathedral is closed for five years and that's it'.

To give the faithful somewhere to congregate next to Notre-Dame, he suggests: "Can I not build an ephemeral cathedral on the esplanade (in front of Notre-Dame)?"

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo had backed the idea and agreed to give over part of the esplanade to the church for a wooden structure, he says.

Chauvet says the wooden "cathedral" would host priests who could address some of the millions of tourists who throng the original 850-year-old Gothic cathedral each year. -- Agence France-Presse

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