A devastating fire swept the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday morning as the 850-year-old UNESCO world heritage site is under renovation.
Firefighters said the incident was brought under control and only residual fires remain. According to the authorities, they ruled out arson or terrorism as the cause at the moment.
They said that the 500 tons of wood and 250 tons of lead used in the €6 million or $6.78 million restoration project might have escalated the fire.
Saving Notre Dame
No casualties were reported, with only one firefighter injured during the operation. Paris fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet said two-thirds of the roof was destroyed.
They managed, however, to save the two towers and the main structure of the Gothic cathedral from complete destruction. Occupants of nearby buildings evacuated out of fears that the blaze would further spread out.
"Thanks to the great bravery of all our firefighters, and as well all the public servants there, we had a very quick intervention," said Jean-Francois Martins, Paris deputy mayor for tourism and sports. "Everything is safe and undamaged, and in our really bad day, we had one good news."
French President Emmanuel Macron declared a national emergency and immediately canceled a televised address pertaining to the country's economic crisis.
He said the government would launch a fund-raising campaign on Tuesday and appealed to the world's "greatest talents" to help rebuild the structure.
"Notre Dame of Paris is our history, our literature, our imagination. The place where we survived epidemics, wars, liberation. It has been the epicenter of our lives," Macron said during his on-site speech.
Tourists and locals stood aghast as the fire engulfed the top portion of the cathedral. The Vatican released a statement expressing shock and sadness on the fate of the Notre Dame church, which is a prominent symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.
Notre Dame de Paris In Retrospect
The Notre Dame Cathedral was popularized in Victor Hugo's 1831 novel titled The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The fiction eventually became an animated motion picture in 1996.
About 14 million tourists visit the cathedral, which is a frequent site of royal weddings. It is also where the consecration of Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor of France and the beatification of Joan of Arc took place.
The medieval basilica houses rose-stained glass windows, a 17th-century organ, several ancient religious relics, bells and drones, paintings, historical artifacts, and a number of beehives on the roof.