Paris' iconic Notre Dame is burning, and it may be doomed. France's interior minister says it "is not certain" the 850-year-old cathedral can be saved, reports AFP. The AP initially reported flames and smoke could be seen pouring from the base of the building's spire, which was in the process of being renovated at a cost of $6.8 million. Reuters has since reported the spire has collapsed as well as the roof. "Basically the whole rooftop is gone," says a witness. "I see no hope for the building." Added a police officer on the scene: "Everything is collapsing." The BBC quotes fire officials who say it's possible the fire is connected to the renovation work. CNN notes firefighters struggled to get through rush-hour traffic to reach the scene of what Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo calls a "terrible fire." More coverage:
- Watch live coverage of the fire via the BBC.
- About 14 million people a year visit the cathedral, per the Guardian. It is, by far, the most visited monument in Paris, notes the Washington Post. "Its intricate stone gargoyles, spires, stained glass and flying buttresses make it one of the great masterpieces of architecture."
- President Trump weighed in on Twitter: "So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!"
- The Week flags this tweet from France's Sécurité Civile, which makes clear Trump's suggestion won't work: "Hundreds of firemen of the Paris Fire Brigade are doing everything they can to bring the terrible #NotreDame fire under control. All means are being used, except for water-bombing aircrafts which, if used, could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral."
- President Emmanuel Macron postponed a major televised speech that was to address the country's yellow vest crisis due to the fire. "Like all of my countrymen, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burn," Macron said while visiting the scene.
- The fire began about 6:30pm local time as the last big group of tourists of the day was attempting to get in, reports the New York Times. The doors were shut abruptly, without any explanation, and the first wisps of smoke were soon evident. Thousands have lined the banks of the Seine to watch.
- Former President Obama also weighed in, via Twitter. "Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief," he wrote. "It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost—but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can."
- For a quick history, see the Wall Street Journal. Most know the cathedral thanks to Victor Hugo's 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame and its multiple movies.
- Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris, which is raising funds for the construction work, had previously written about the need for the renovation: "the lead that protects the wooden spire from the elements [and] dates from the mid-nineteenth century has fallen into disrepair, and because of water damage to the wooden structure beneath, is structurally compromised."
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