French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris after a colossal fire caused the spire of the historic edifice to crash to the ground and wiped out centuries of heritage.
Macron expressed relief that “the worst had been avoided” in a fire that risked bringing the entire edifice down and left France in shock over the damage to a building described as the soul of the nation.
But the blaze destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old UNESCO world heritage landmark, whose spectacular Gothic spire collapsed before the eyes of horrified onlookers on a previously pristine early spring evening.
The fire, which came as Catholics prepare to celebrate Easter, sent orange flames and clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky as stunned Parisians and tourists watched on in horror.
As darkness fell, some 400 firefighters then battled to control the blaze and save at least its iconic front towers. They finally gained the upper hand as midnight approached.
Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said “we can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved” as well as the two towers.
Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez, also present at the scene, said that for the first time “the fire had decreased in intensity” while still urging “extreme caution”.