Firefighters have fully extinguished a catastrophic fire at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral that left a nation mourning the devastation of its cultural and historic “epicentre”.
Just under 400 firefighters tackled the historic blaze through the night, battling to stop it wreaking complete destruction of the treasured facade after flames torched the roof, sending its spire crashing to the ground before crowds of horrified Parisians.
Two police officers and one firefighter were injured during the blaze, which saw teams battle to save the structure of the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece and the priceless artefacts it housed.
Investigators believe the fire was caused by accident, possibly as a result of restoration work taking place at the global architectural treasure.
The tragedy has prompted an outpouring of support, with the Queen saying she was “deeply saddened” and world leaders pledging to help France rebuild the cathedral.
The fire, which broke out as the last crowds of tourists ended visits at around 6pm BST (7pm local time), was finally declared to be “fully extinguished” more than 12 hours later on Tuesday morning.
Speaking in front of the cathedral, junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez said: “The task overnight was to bring the fire under control so it doesn’t re-start.
“The task is — now the risk of fire has been put aside — about the building, how the structure will resist.”
2/2 Après plus de 9h de combats acharnés, près de 400 pompiers de Paris sont venus à bout de l’effroyable l’incendie. 2 policiers et un sapeur-pompier ont été légèrement blessés. pic.twitter.com/re9ZR0KB3W
— Pompiers de Paris (@PompiersParis) April 16, 2019
The Paris Fire Service, Pompiers de Paris, said on Twitter that Notre Dame’s structure and artworks had been saved.
It said: “The structure of the cathedral is saved and the main works of art have been safeguarded, thanks to the combined action of the various state services committed to our side.”
Fifty people are working on a “long” and “complex” investigation into the cause, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz told reporters.
Investigators will interview workers from five companies hired to work on renovations to the cathedral roof.
Gabriel Plus, a spokesman for Paris firefighters, said emergency services were currently “surveying the movement of the structures and extinguishing smouldering residues”.
In a message to President Emmanuel Macron, the Queen said: “I extend my sincere admiration to the emergency services who have risked their lives to try to save this important national monument.”
Scores of Parisians gathered on the banks of the Seine as the sun rose on Tuesday morning to survey the damage to their beloved landmark.
Ashes from the cathedral’s spire blew across the banks of the river, along with the blossom from Notre Dame’s gardens.
— Tess de la Mare (@TessdelaMare) April 16, 2019
Daniel Etieve, 70, said: “It’s a very sad picture. For over 800 years this cathedral has been passed from generation to generation.
“Now I question what state we will pass it on to the generations after us.
A 55-year-old art historian, who gave his name as Fabrice, said it was “hard to believe that this is happening in Paris – part of ourselves has been destroyed”. he said.
“I always go for a walk in this area every day and come to see Notre Dame. It’s like coming to visit an elderly parent.”
Mr Plus said that now the fire is out, “this phase is for the experts” to plan how to consolidate the edifice.
Hundreds of millions of euros have been pledged to rebuild the national monument, while Mr Macron said a national subscription would be launched when he visited the scene on Monday night.
French tycoon Bernard Arnault and his luxury goods group LVMH have pledged 200 million euro (£173 million) towards the reconstruction of Notre Dame, following a reported 100 million euro (£86 million) donation from another French billionaire, Francois Pinault.
And the UK ambassador to France, Ed Llewellyn, said the country stands ready to help with efforts to restore the building.
Wounded. Beautiful. Defiant. Notre Dame this morning pic.twitter.com/5QEO91MStb
— Ed Llewellyn (@EdLlewellynFCO) April 16, 2019
Meanwhile, European Council president Donald Tusk called on the EU’s member countries to help, saying the site in Paris is a symbol of what binds Europe together.
Mr Tusk told representatives that the blaze reminds Europeans of “how much we can lose”.