Paris: A colossal fire swept through the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday, causing a spire to collapse and raising fears over the future of the nearly millennium old building and its precious artworks. Notre-Dame's main structure has been 'saved and preserved' after fire, said a Paris fire official.
The fire, which began in the early evening, sent flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the Paris sky as stunned Parisians and tourists watched on in sheer horror.
The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year. A spokesman for the cathedral told AFP that the wooden structure supporting the roof was being gutted by the blaze.
The fire service said the blaze could be "potentially linked" to ongoing renovations. President Emmanuel Macron cancelled a major televised policy speech he was due to give on Monday evening over the "terrible fire ravaging Notre-Dame.
" Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo in a tweet described it as a "terrible fire". "The Paris fire service is trying to control the flames," she wrote on Twitter, asking residents to respect the security cordon thrown up around the site.
A spokesperson 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 Ile de la Cite -- an island in the Seine 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".