A massive fire swept through the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday, causing a spire to collapse and raising fear that the entire centuries-old masterpiece may be destroyed.
However, French firefighters successfully battled for hours to save the main structure of the 850-year-old UNESCO world heritage landmark. According to reports, the fire is said to be under control and has "partially extinguished" as of now.
French President Emmanuel Macron vowed that “we will rebuild” Notre-Dame and expressed relief that “the worst has been avoided”.
The fire destroyed the roof of Notre-Dame, whose spectacular Gothic spire collapsed before the eyes of horrified onlookers on a previously pristine early spring evening.
After some 400 firefighters battled for hours to control the fire, Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude said “we can consider that the main structure of Nore-Dame has been saved and preserved”, along with the two towers.
"This is really sad -- the saddest thing I've ever stood and watched in my life," British tourist Sam Ogden, a 50-year-old onlooker, was quoted by AFP as saying.
The cause of the blaze was not immediately confirmed. The cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work which the fire service said could be linked to the blaze.
"If Paris is the Eiffel Tower then France is Notre Dame. It's the entire culture, entire history of France incarnated in this monument," Bernard Lecompte, a writer and specialist in religious history told BFM TV.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he felt a "sadness beyond words" but added the fire services "were still fighting... Heroically, to save what can be saved".
The Vatican on Monday expressed its "incredulity" and "sadness", expressing " our closeness with French Catholics and with the Parisian population."
There was no immediate indication of any casualties in the blaze.
US President Donald Trump in a tweet said it was "horrible" to watch the fire but caused controversy by offering advice on how to put it out.
The cathedral was located at the centre of the French capital in the Middle Ages and its construction was completed in the mid-12th century after some 200 years of work.
During the French Revolution in the 18th century, the cathedral was vandalised in widespread anti-Catholic violence: its spire was dismantled, its treasures plundered and its large statues at the grand entrance doors destroyed.
(With inputs from agencies)