Watch flames destroy famed Notre Dame Cathedral as the historic building burns

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One onlooker of the fire was overheard saying, "Paris without the cathedral is not Paris anymore".

While experts said that the cathedral was not at risk of sudden collapse, many will now be fearing the worst, as parts have already collapsed. Local media have reported that the fire has destroyed the entire roof. He also added that firefighters were examining the interior of the right tower of the Cathedral.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, described it as a bad fire and urged people to respect the boundaries set up by fire crews. The cathedral is a major tourist destination, with the number of visitors swelling to as many as 50,000 people a day, especially during periods like now - the holy week in the Christian calendar that leads up to Easter. He said that the Crown of Thorns, and the tunic of St. Louis have been rescued. But firefighters had struggled to take down some of the large paintings in time, he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron was rushing to the scene, having cancelled a major televised speech after the blaze broke out. "Tonight firefighters are fighting heroically against the fire to preserve what they can".

Prosecutors say Paris police will conduct an investigation into "involuntary destruction caused by fire".

Associated Press reporters at the scene saw massive plumes of yellow brown smoke filling the air above the Cathedral and ash falling on the island that houses Notre Dame and marks the centre of Paris. Earlier, Paris police stated that it is still unclear what caused the fire or if anyone died as a result of the incident.

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Aupetit is at the cathedral and will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron later.

"Notre-Dame belonged to all humanity". Thought for all Catholics and for all French.

Churches like Notre Dame provided art freely in a democratic manner, since people didn't have to pay to see the inside, she said.

Pascal told French broadcaster BFMTV: "It's been 800 years that the Cathedral watches over Paris" and its bells pealed for both "happy and unfortunate events". He suggested that France should get some "flying water tankers" to put out the blaze. "The spire also collapsed during the fire".

Hundreds of people on bridges around Notre Dame in Paris, watching in shock as fire engulfs the famed cathedral.

"My prayers are for the French people, the diocese of Paris, and everyone who will have to work hard to rebuild an worldwide treasure, eternal and powerful", Castellanos said.

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