A catastrophic fire has engulfed the world famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, toppling its spire and threatening the entire wooden frame of the building.
The deputy mayor of Paris, Emmanuel Gregoire, said the cathedral had suffered “colossal damages”, and the emergency services were trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored in the cathedral.
A cathedral spokesman said the entire wooden interior was burning and likely to be destroyed.
Officials said the fire may be linked to renovation work at one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, French media reported.
Paris prosecutors opened an investigation into the blaze as the fire was still burning out of control, and the authorities said no-one had been hurt.
Hundreds of people on bridges around Notre Dame in Paris, watching in shock as fire engulfs the famed cathedral.
Photos and videos on social media show the roof of the 850-year-old Gothic building covered in flames, issuing a plume of smoke above the city.
The Paris fire brigade can be seen in videos dousing the blaze with water.
A church spokesman said all of the cathedral’s frame was burning after the spire collapsed.
The emergency services were trying to salvage the priceless artwork stored in the cathedral.
US President Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that the fire was put out with “flying water tankers”.
“So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” he wrote.
“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo described it as a “terrible fire” and urged people at the scene to stay safe.
French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a televised speech to the nation because of the stunning blaze and was going to the cathedral himself.
He tweeted: “Our Lady of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thought for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
Labour MP Yvette Cooper said: “Have just come away from the bank of the Seine after the spire fell as I can’t bear to watch any more. Fearful for anyone close to the flames, and aghast that centuries of history & beauty could disappear into smoke so fast.”
Ashley Huntington, 21, an American university student studying in Paris, said: “Our class ran what was supposed to be 30 minutes walking but we probably got here in 20 running.
“You could just get close and see the smoke. The smoke is everywhere in the sky. It seems like more pieces of the scaffolding are currently falling.”
She added: “It just looks like it’s out of control. I’ve never seen a fire in real life but the flames keep getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think it’s getting better at all.
“The police right now are definitely making sure the public is cleared away. We keep getting pushed further and further away.”