A massive fire broke out at Paris’ Cathedral of Notre-Dame Monday evening, toppling the medieval structure’s spire and collapsing its roof.
Cathedral spokesperson André Finot told the New York Times in a phone interview that the cause of the fire is still unknown. There have been no confirmed deaths or injuries reported at the time of writing.
Though Paris Mayor Anne Hildago and firefighters warned people to stay away from the area, hundreds of Parisians and tourists captured photos and videos of the devastating fire engulfing the cathedral.
Un terrible incendie est en cours à la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Les @PompiersParis sont en train de tenter de maîtriser les flammes. Nous sommes mobilisés sur place en lien étroit avec le @dioceseParis. J'invite chacune et chacun à respecter le périmètre de sécurité. pic.twitter.com/9X0tGtlgba
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) April 15, 2019
Firefighters on cherry picker cranes sprayed water in an attempt to douse the flames.
But former New York City fire chief Vincent Dunn told the Times that “fire hose streams couldn’t reach the top of such a cathedral, and that reaching the top on foot was often an arduous climb over winding steps.”
Located in Île de la Cité, a small island in the middle of the city, Notre-Dame draws an estimated 13 million visitors annually.
The cathedral was in the midst of renovations with large swaths of it under scaffolding when the fire broke out.
Times reporters gathered statements from witnesses, adding that “the crowds that had gathered were eerily calm, with little shouting or commotion.”
“It hurts to watch this,” 32-year-old Pierre-Eric Trimovillas told the publication. “The cathedral is the symbol, the heart of Paris. Paris is beheaded.”
Tearful Angelique de Almeida said: “We are going to lose her, everything is up in flames. We lose this, we lose Paris. It is apocalyptic. And this is the Holy Week.”
The fire continued to rapidly spread as onlookers captured the destruction on their phones, even as soot and ash rained down onto them.
— Steven nabil (@thestevennabil) April 15, 2019
"Désolé mon fils, mais c'est pas tous les jours que Notre-Dame brûle", dit un père à son bébé qui s'impatiente, à deux mètres d'une femme en larmes, soufflant "faut qu'ils fassent quelque chose ! faut qu'ils fassent quelque chose !" #notredame pic.twitter.com/mPxIbGh8Vp
— Jean Birnbaum (@JeanBirnbaum) April 15, 2019
— Remy Buisine (@RemyBuisine) April 15, 2019
— Thomas Vampouille (@tomvampouille) April 15, 2019
It’s falling pic.twitter.com/TE705LNfdw
— Hash Miser (@H_Miser) April 15, 2019
— Vintage Los Angeles (@alisonmartino) April 15, 2019
— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) April 15, 2019
The walls of #NotreDame are stout, but if weakened by fire and roofing timbers could come down.
Are the streets in the collapse zone cleared? Of both onlookers and responder/trucks? Any other buildings threatened?
If a wall of fire comes down what the plan to fight THAT fire? pic.twitter.com/1kgepGctXW
— Gregg Favre (@GreggFavre) April 15, 2019
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 15, 2019
French President Emmanuel Macron canceled a major speech that was scheduled for Monday evening, mourning the cathedral in a tweet that said “like all of our fellow citizens, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
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
The cathedral dates back to the 12th century and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity soon after the publication of Victor Hugo’s seminal novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831.