Earlier today, a fire broke out at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France and firefighters are still battling to control the blaze. The fire has engulfed a large part of the building’s structure, and it is feared that the 850-year-old cathedral could be lost forever. Many iconic parts of the church have already been destroyed, including the church’s spire which crumbled to the ground earlier today.
“Everything is collapsing,” a police officer told Reuters.
Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told French media, “Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame.”
The fire broke out at around 4.50pm GMT, a spokesperson for the cathedral told Agence France-Presse.
News crews from around the world have gathered outside of the church, waiting to see if what can be salvaged. Emergency workers are currently rushing to save artwork and historical artifacts from inside the building as firefighters try their best to control the flames.
United States President Donald Trump Tweeted his best wishes to the people of France, and suggested that perhaps they could use flying water tankers to put out the blaze.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2019
However, Trump’s suggestion was opposed by the French civil defense and crisis management agency.
“The drop of water by air on this type of building could result in the collapse of the entire structure along with the firefighers who are currently doing their best to save Notre Dame. Helicopter or airplane, the weight of the water and the intensity of the drop at low altitude could weaken the structure of Notre-Dame and result in collateral damage to the buildings in the vicinity,” the agency said in a statement.
Vincent Dunn, a fire consultant and former New York City fire chief told the New York Times that these types of historical buildings are typically not built to modern fire codes, and can catch on fire very easily.
Firefighters rushing to control the blaze at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in France / Photo Credit: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images
“These cathedrals and houses of worship are built to burn. If they weren’t houses of worship, they’d be condemned,” he said.
At first, some people speculated that this could be an act of arson, but experts are now pointing to a construction fire as the reason for the blaze. Construction fires are sadly common during old church restorations, as Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College in New York, explains.
“There’s a history of churches and synagogues and other houses of worship falling victim to construction fires,” he said.
Notre Dame Cathedral burning in France / Photo Credit: Photograph: Thibault Camus/AP
The problem is that sparks from welders or open flames from torches can easily catch fire to the many flammable items in places like this. Plus, the old wood in building itself acts as kindling as well.
Experts say that the building was already in rough shape anyway, and was at risk of collapsing in the next ten years even if there wasn’t a fire. The costs of restoration were said to be extremely high.
The French deputy interior minister has said saving Notre Dame “is not certain.”
#BREAKING Saving Notre-Dame “is not certain,” says deputy interior minister
— AFP news agency (@AFP) April 15, 2019
Notre Dame Cathedral is the most visited landmark in Paris and one of the city’s oldest and most recognizable buildings. Each year, over 13 million people visit the iconic landmark, which is an average of over 30,000 people per day. Work on the Cathedral began in 1163, and the original structure was completed nearly 200 years later, in 1345.
Though police quickly assured the public that the cause of the fire was accidental, Paris prosecutors have reportedly opened an investigation into what started the blaze. One point of suspicion is that there has been a string of attacks against Catholic churches in France over the past several months.
It was reported last month that Catholic churches throughout the country were being hit with vandalism, arson and desecration attacks.
According to The Tablet, there had been a record 47 documented attacks on churches and religious sites in the month of February alone.
The Vienna-based Observatory of Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe said that there had been a 25 percent increase in attacks on Catholic churches in the first two months of the year, compared with the same time last year.