Firefighters tonight warned they might not be able to save Notre Dame as a devastating fire continued to engulf the iconic cathedral in Paris.
Flames ripped through the upper part of the cathedral and caused the spire to collapse. Parisians and tourists gathered at a safe distance to sign hymns and pray.
Officials said the fire, which started at the 850-year-old Gothic building around 7pm local time, could be linked to renovation works being carried out at the cathedral. French media reports, citing police sources, added that the fire started by accident.
Fire trucks sped through Paris towards the scene on the Ile de la Cite – an island in the Seine at the heart of Paris.
Two hours after it began, the spire of the cathedral collapsed in flames. leaving onlookers in shock.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, announced he was cancelling a speech he was due to give this evening due to the conflagration.
“Thoughts go out to all Catholics and all French people. Like all our compatriots, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burning,” Mr Macron wrote on Twitter.
“The smoke is blowing over the south side of the city towards the Tour Eiffel,” eyewitness Anne-Sophie Faivre, a 21-year-old Warwick University student on her year abroad in Paris, told the Telegraph.
“You can’t quite smell the smoke but it’s definitely in the air and the doesn’t seem to be any let-up in it coming from the cathedral.
“As you can imagine there are a lot of people both tourists and locals who have gathered to watch.”