A catastrophic fire has engulfed the world famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, toppling its spire and threatening the entire wooden frame of the building.
The deputy mayor of Paris, Emmanuel Gregoire, said the cathedral had suffered “colossal damages”, and the emergency services were trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored in the cathedral.
A cathedral spokesman said the entire wooden interior was burning and likely to be destroyed.
Officials said the fire may be linked to renovation work at one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, French media reported.
Paris prosecutors opened an investigation into the blaze as the fire was still burning out of control, and the authorities said no-one had been hurt.
Hundreds of people on bridges around Notre Dame in Paris, watching in shock as fire engulfs the famed cathedral.
Photos and videos on social media show the roof of the 850-year-old Gothic building covered in flames, issuing a plume of smoke above the city.
A church spokesman said all of the cathedral’s frame was burning after the spire collapsed.
The emergency services were trying to salvage the priceless artwork stored in the cathedral.
The Vatican has issued a statement about the “terrible fire” that has “devastated” Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
The Vatican said: “The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”
The statement says the Vatican is praying for firefighters “and those who are doing everything possible to confront this dramatic situation” on Monday.
It also expressed “our closeness to French Catholics and the population of Paris, and we assure our prayers for firefighters.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo described it as a “terrible fire” and urged people at the scene to stay safe.
French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a televised speech to the nation because of the stunning blaze and was going to the cathedral himself.
He tweeted: “Our Lady of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thought for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
“The police right now are definitely making sure the public is cleared away. We keep getting pushed further and further away.”