'Terrible fire' at Notre Dame could be linked to spire renovation

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Live television footage on Monday showed flames leaping up the spire before it toppled onto the fire-engulfed roof, with smoke billowing out into the evening skyline of the French capital.

The Associated Press is reporting that Paris police say the cause of the fire is unknown and no deaths have been reported.

"And I've been there, and I've seen it, and there's no cathedral, I think I could say this, probably no cathedral in the world like it, it's a bad scene", he continued.

The fire started around 6:50 p.m. local time, just minutes after the cathedral closed to the public, according to the Paris fire department.

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

Firefighters were trying to contain the fire when the cathedral's spire collapsed.

A spokesperson for the cathedral said the blaze was first reported at 4.50am (NZT) (5.50pm GMT) and the building was evacuated soon after. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the firefighters on the scene and all the people of Paris", Vice President Mike Pence tweeted.

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The medieval cathedral was completed in the 13th century and today, with its towers, spire, flying buttresses and stained glass, is considered a feat of architecture as much as a religious symbol. Massive plumes of yellow brown smoke is filling the air above Notre Dame Cathedral and ash is falling on tourists and others around the island that marks the center of Paris.

Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told BFMTV the cathedral has suffered "colossal damages".

It is not yet known what caused the fire, though officials have suggested it is connected to the recent restoration.

French president Emmanuel Macron postponed a televised speech to the nation and was travelling to the site of the blaze.

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 iconic building is one of the most well-known in the world. The cathedral is a major tourist destination and visited by up to 50,000 people a day.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo called the blaze "terrible" and called on the public to respect the security perimeter in place.

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