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Notre Dame fire: ‘Our thoughts are with our French friends’

Notre Dame Cathedral went up in flames on Monday in a roaring blaze that devastated the icon in Paris- a searing loss for the city and for France.

Flames that began in the early evening burst through the roof of the centuries-old cathedral and engulfed the spire, which quickly collapsed followed by the entire roof.

A huge plume of smoke wafted across the city and ash fell over a large area. Parisians watched on, many of them lost for words.

Reaction from around the world was swift.

The Catholic Church in the Holy Land said it is praying the fire was “not intentional” while expressing solidarity with the church in France.

“We pray that there will be no injuries, for the fire not to be intentional, and for least possible damage to the church,” a statement released in Jerusalem said.

‘Symbol of European culture’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the first world leaders to offer her sympathies over the fire that overwhelmed the 12th century icon, saying “our thoughts are with our French friends”.

Merkel’s office called the building a “symbol of France and of our European culture”.

“These horrible images of Notre-Dame on fire are painful,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Twitter. 

Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he hoped fire services would succeed in quickly bringing the blaze under control and saving the monument.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame is shown in 1911 [AP Photo]

US President Donald Trump expressed his sorrow shortly after the fire broke out and even made suggestions on how first responders should tackle it.

“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,” Trump offered his advice on Twitter.

The Vatican “learned with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire which has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, a symbol of Christianity in France and the world”, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said in a statement.

“We express our solidarity to French Catholics and to the people of Paris and we offer our prayers for firefighters and those who are doing what is possible to face this dramatic situation,” said Gisotti.

The United Nations’ cultural agency said it “stood at France’s side to save and restore” Notre Dame Cathedral, “a priceless heritage”.

Notre Dame was added to UNESCO’s world heritage list in 1991.

Audrey Azoulay, secretary-general of UNESCO, said the agency was monitoring the effort to put out the blaze.

Police in Paris said the cause of the massive fire enveloping the cathedral isn’t yet known, adding no deaths were reported.

‘Terrible blaze’

British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her thoughts for the people of France and emergency services battling the devastating fire.

“My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral,” the British leader tweeted.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan offered his city’s condolences to the French people.

“Heartbreaking scenes of Notre Dame cathedral in flames,” Khan said on Twitter. “London stands in sorrow with Paris today and in friendship always.”

Located on the Ile de la Cite in the centre of Paris, the Gothic cathedral is among the most famous from the Middle Ages and was built on the ruins of two earlier churches. The ancient monument was undergoing a $6.8m renovation when the blaze started.

The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of Paris’ most popular tourist landmarks and attracts millions of visitors every year.

The cathedral was immortalised in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, published in 1831, and has long been a subject of fascination in popular culture as well as the traditional art world.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said he was praying “to ask the intercession of Notre Dame, our Lady, for the Cathedral at the heart of Paris, and of civilization, now in flames!

“God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze.”

American soldiers are greeted by French women in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in August 1944 [AP Photo]

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