A huge fire has swallowed up Paris’ Notre Dame, the world-famous, 850-year-old cathedral on Monday, and it might threaten its existence.
The French Interior Ministry said on Twitter that over 400 firefighters had been mobilized to the location to battle the blaze. However, the Associated Press reports that an official from the ministry said they might not be able to save the cathedral. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has evacuated all nearby residents out of fear that the cathedral will collapse, according to the AP.
Though its unclear whether Notre Dame will survive the blaze, AP reports Hidalgo as saying firefighters believe they can save the cathedral’s two main towers.
AP reports the flames spread to one of cathedral’s two rectangle towers, though Paris police have said the fire has stopped spreading to the northern belfry tower. According to the AP, Notre Dame spokesperson Andre Finot told French media that “nothing will remain from the frame.”
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that the burning cathedral was the “emotion of a whole nation.”
“Like all our countrymen, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burn,” he tweeted.
Notre-Dame de Paris en proie aux flammes. Émotion de toute une nation. Pensée pour tous les catholiques et pour tous les Français. Comme tous nos compatriotes, je suis triste ce soir de voir brûler cette part de nous.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 15, 2019
President Donald Trump tweeted that it was “horrible to watch” Notre Dame burning and suggested that French authorities use “flying water tankers” to extinguish the flames.
So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2019
France’s civil security agency said that it had used “all means” to try and put out the fire, except for water-dropping aircrafts, like U.S. President suggested. They said that dropping that amount of water on the 12th century structure could cause the entire building to fall.
At a economic roundtable in Minnesota later on Monday, Trump again addressed the fire.
“It was burning at a level that you rarely see a fire burn,” he said to the crowd. “It’s one of the greatest treasures in the world… It might be greater than almost museum in the world and it’s burning very badly. It looks like it’s burning to the ground.”
The Vatican released a statement on Monday evening conveying Pope Francis’ “shock and sadness” at the destruction of a worldwide “symbol of Christianity.”
“We express our closeness to the French Catholics and the population of Paris and assure you of our prayers for the firefighters and how many are doing their best to cope with this tragic situation,” the statement read.
According to the AP, Paris police and the French junior interior minister say the cause of the fire is currently unknown. No deaths have been reported and there is no information about any injuries.
A U.S. counterterrorism official who has been in contact with French officials said the initial indications are that the fire was the result of the restoration work underway on the cathedral rather than a deliberate act.
However, the official said, the Paris prosecutor’s inquiry that has been opened cannot begin in earnest until the fire is extinguished and it is safe for investigators to begin inspecting the ruins.
French authorities have been told that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials and forensic specialists are standing by to assist if there are indications that the blaze was the result of terrorism or other foul play, the official tells Time.
Videos and images of the enormous fire engulfing the medieval Catholic cathedral have flooded social media. In them, enormous plumes of smoke can be seen erupting from the cathedral, with flames leaping up to its bell towers and spire, which eventually collapsed. A church spokesperson told the AP that the whole of the cathedral’s frame is on fire and television network France 24 reported that “the roof has entirely collapsed.”
Here are a few of the many social media posts documenting the fire.
BREAKING NEWS: Huge fire reported at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.pic.twitter.com/OfxhBGaSO8
— Breaking News Feed (@pzf) April 15, 2019
— casas codina (@CasasCodina) April 15, 2019
— cristina casacuberta (@ccasacub) April 15, 2019
— Solveig Godeluck (@Solwii) April 15, 2019
Before the news breaks, the Notre Dame is on fire. pic.twitter.com/fhSNcznCG2
— Ashley (@AshhHuntington) April 15, 2019
— BNO News (@BNONews) April 15, 2019
This photo of Notre Dame Cathedral breaks my heart. What a horrible thing to happen. pic.twitter.com/OlHdRC3A1c
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) April 15, 2019
Many documented the moment that the cathedral’s spire, which was reconstructed in the 19th century, fell.
— Paris Match (@ParisMatch) April 15, 2019
— Patrick Galey (@patrickgaley) April 15, 2019
Construction of Notre Dame began in 1163, according to the cathedral’s website, and was complete about 1250. It is one of Europe’s most-popular tourist attractions drawing about 12 million people a year to its doors. The building was also celebrated in Victor Hugo’s classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was published in 1831.
In recent years, its hundreds of years have caused the cathedral to fall into a state of disrepair, with no clear decision about who would take up the cost for expensive restorations.
Additional reporting by John Walcott
This story is developing…