Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo optimistic Notre Dame's main towers can be salvaged
Update 5:44 pm ET: According to the latest reports, a paris fire official said the main structure has been "saved and preserved." The Associated Press reports Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo confirmed firefighters were optimistic about salvaging Notre Dame's main towers from flames.
Update 3:54 pm ET: French Interior Ministry official says firefighters might not be able to save Notre Dame Cathedral.
A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below.
The blaze collapsed the cathedral's spire and spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers. A spokesman said the entire wooden frame of the cathedral would likely come down, and that the vault of the edifice could be threatened too.
A spokesman for the cathedral told BBC that the whole structure was "burning". "There will be nothing left," he said. "It remains to be seen whether the vault, which protects the cathedral, will be affected or not."
Multiple images circulated on social media of plumes of smoke billowing into the air above the Gothic building, which is 850-year-old.
The cathedral is one of the major tourist attractions of Paris and its construction began in the 12th century, taking about 300 years to complete. Although the structure is predominantly French Gothic, there are certain areas which reflect the Renaissance and the Naturalism era of construction.
Catholic Church in France, last year, had launched an urgent appeal for funds to save the cathedral, which was beginning to crumble.
French President Emmanuel Macron released a statement, saying his thoughts were with "all Catholics and all French people." He is currently on his way to the scene. "Like all of my countrymen, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burn," he added.
An Élysée Palace official said that the president has canceled his planned speech to the nation following the fire.
The cathedral was in the middle of renovations, with certain sections of the building under scaffolding. Reports state bronze statues were removed last week for works.
Reports state that a major operation is currently underway to fight the blaze, which broke out on Monday afternoon. Officials have said that an area surrounding the building in central Paris has been cleared.
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, also spoke on the blaze, calling it a "terrible fire." The mayor urged people at the scene to respect the boundaries set up by the firefighters in an effort to ensure everyone remains safe.
France 2 television reported that police officials were treating the incident as an accident.
The Paris prosecutor's office said it has launched an inquiry into the incident.
With inputs by Associated Press