Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral has been saved from “total destruction,” according to a French fire official, after a massive fire ripped through the structure on Monday and caused the roof and main spire to collapse.
The blaze burned for eight hours, but has now been largely extinguished, according to firefighters. One official was quoted as saying the two iconic rectangular towers have been saved, which will come a relief after one of the towers caught fire earlier in the evening. Earlier, a French Interior Ministry official had said that firefighters might not be able to save the cathedral.
“The worst has been avoided, but the battle isn’t fully won yet,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement outside of the cathedral. He also expressed his sympathies to Catholics around the world, the people of Paris and the people of France. The fire broke out just days before Easter.
“We will rebuild the cathedral together,” Macron said, adding that France will start an international fundraising campaign to raise money for the renovations.
President Macron is treating the fire as a national emergency.
Residents living close to the cathedral were evacuated in case the building collapsed, said Paris Mayor Anne Hildago. The area surrounding the cathedral, Paris’ Ile de la Cite, was also evacuated, according to Reuters.
One fireman was “seriously injured,” an official said. That was the only reported casualty, according to Reuters.
The Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into the fire soon after the damage began. Late Monday, prosecutors said their preliminary findings suggested the huge fire had been started accidentally.
Firefighters at the scene directed much of their efforts toward saving the artwork stored at the back of the cathedral, which had been undergoing renovations.
Notably, 16 religious statues were removed from the cathedral for cleaning on Thursday — for the first time in over a century — and therefore escaped the fire.
The Paris mayor and firefighters warned people to stay away from the area.
At one point, as many as four hundred firefighters were working to put out the blaze, according to the Ministry of the Interior for France.
Earlier on Monday, a cathedral spokesman said the entire wooden interior of the Notre Dame was burning and likely to be destroyed.
The cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century and is famous for featuring in Victor Hugo’s classic novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame,” attracts millions of tourists every year.
Earlier on Monday, President Emmanuel Macron mourned the landmark in a tweet and canceled an address to the nation that he had been due to give later Monday evening.