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Fire ravages Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, spire collapses

AFP  |  Paris 

A colossal fire swept through the famed in central on Monday, causing a to collapse and raising fears over the future of the nearly millenium old building and its precious artworks.

The fire, which began in the early evening, sent flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky as stunned Parisians and tourists watched on in sheer horror.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately confirmed but the cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work to help the 850-year-old gothic masterpiece better deal with the tests of time.

The flames and smoke plumed from the and roof of the cathedral, visited by millions of people a year.

Deputy mayor told the "collapsed inwards" and that workers were scrambling "to save all the artworks that can be saved." A for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze.

"Everything is burning," the for Notre Dame, Andre Finot, told AFP.

The fire service said the blaze could be "potentially linked" to ongoing renovations.

cancelled a major televised policy speech he was due to give on Monday evening over the "terrible fire ravaging Notre-Dame." He was to head to the scene in person, the Elysee announced.

In a tweet he expressed the "emotion of a whole nation" on seeing Notre-Dame ablaze.

"Like all my compatriots I am sad to see a part of us burn this evening" he said, expressing solidarity with "all Catholics and all French people."

German called a "symbol of European culture" as the blaze raged.

in a tweet described it as a "terrible fire".

Vast clouds of grey-white smoke billowed round the cathedral as yellow flames still licked the top of the building.

There was no immediate indication of any casualties in the blaze.

"The Paris fire service is trying to control the flames," Hidalgo wrote on Twitter, asking residents to respect the security cordon thrown up around the site.

A for the cathedral said the fire, which comes as French Catholics prepare to celebrate Easter, broke out at around 1650 GMT.

Fire trucks could be seen speeding through Paris towards the scene on the -- an island in the at the heart of Paris.

The Paris police department in a tweet called on residents to avoid the area and to "make way for rescue vehicles".

US in a tweet said: "So horrible to watch the massive fire at Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!" Hundreds of people gathered on the bridges of Paris downriver to witness the scene, some filming the images with their smartphones, an said.

The cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work which last week saw statues lifted from the top of the cathedral.

Built between the years 1163 and 1345, Notre-Dame is one of the most popular tourist sites in Paris, drawing around 13 million people every year.

The spire, like the rest of the gothic edifice, had been undergoing the 11-million-euro (USD 12.4-million) overhaul financed by the French state to repair damage inflicted by time, pollution and the weather.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, April 16 2019. 00:20 IST