UPDATE: Firefighters declared success Tuesday morning in their more than 12-hour battle to extinguish the flames that engulfed Paris’ iconic Notre Dame cathedral.
What remained was a blackened shell of the monument immortalized in Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” a building that had survived almost 900 years of tumultuous French history.
The two iconic 69-meter bell towers remained intact and swarmed with building specialists and architects at dawn, looking tiny from the ground as they conducted analysis. The cathedral’s spire and roof were gone, however.
Paris firefighters spokesman Gabriel Plus said “the entire fire is out” and that emergency services are currently “surveying the movement of the structures and extinguishing smoldering residues.”
“The task overnight was to bring the fire under control so it doesn’t re-start,” said Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez in front of the cathedral.
“The task is – now the risk of fire has been put aside – about the building, how the structure will resist,” he continued.
Officials consider the fire an accident, possibly as a result of restoration work taking place at the global architectural treasure, but that news has done nothing to ease the national mourning.
French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the cathedral that he called “a part of us” and appealed for help to do so.
As the country woke up in collective sadness, its richest businessman, Bernard Arnault, and his luxury goods group LVMH answered this call with a pledge of 200 million euros ($226 million).
PARIS (NBC News/AP) – Firefighters are still pouring water at the site of a devastating fire at the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
A French official and the Paris fire chief say crews have saved the cathedral’s structure and prevented one of the main bell towers from collapsing.
The fire chief said just one firefighter was injured.
The cathedral’s spire was undergoing a $6.8 million renovation project when a fire broke out Monday night and quickly spread throughout the church. At one point, it looked as if the fire was not going to be controlled and the cathedral would be lost.
Flames fully engulfed the spire, which toppled and took down the roof with it.
Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told French media: “Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame.”
Much of the wooden interior of the cathedral is likely destroyed, but first responders have been working to salvage art and other priceless pieces stored there.
Paris prosecutors say investigators are treating the blaze as an accident for now. Arson has been ruled out, including possible terror-related motives.
French President Emmanuel Macron credited the “courage” and “great professionalism” of firefighters with sparing Notre Dame’s facade and two landmark towers from being destroyed.
He pledged to rebuild Notre Dame, saying it was France’s history, literature and destiny. Macron added that a national fundraising campaign to restore the cathedral would be launched Tuesday and he called on the world’s “greatest talents” to help.
Officials say the fire is under control and crews will keep working overnight to cool down the structure.
Millions of people visit the cathedral each year. It dates back to the 12th century and is a central feature in Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”