Clemmons woman in Paris describes watching ‘sickening’ fire at Notre Dame Cathedral

Clemmons woman in Paris describes watching ‘sickening’ fire at Notre Dame Cathedral

The French leader credited the "courage" and "great professionalism" of firefighters with sparing Notre Dame's facade and two landmark towers from being destroyed.

As the cathedral burned, Parisians gathered to pray and sing hymns outside the church of Saint Julien Les Pauvres across the river from Notre Dame while the flames lit the sky behind them. This scaffolding was put in place as part of a $6.8 million restoration project that was ongoing at the time.

The next hour and a half will be crucial in saving what remains of the Notre-Dame cathedral, according to Jean-Claude Gallet, Paris Fire Brigade commander general.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately confirmed, but the cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work.

French President Emmanuel Macron is on his way to the scene.

The spire and roof of the cathedral collapsed as flames chewed at the building Monday.

"We will rebuild this cathedral", said Macron, who added that "The worst has been avoided although the battle is not yet totally won".

The smoke-eater was one of roughly 400 firemen to be called down to the iconic Parisian cathedral on Monday after it went up in flames. The city's mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said the significant collection of art work and holy objects inside the church had been recovered.

In 2012, after 10 months of restoration work, the great organ of Notre-Dame - the largest in France, with five keyboards, 109 stops and almost 8,000 pipes - was sounded, in celebration of the cathedral's 850th anniversary.

The priceless artwork is also being removed in an attempt to save as much as possible.

French historian Camille Pascal told BFM broadcast channel the blaze marked "the destruction of invaluable heritage".

"Everything is burning. The framing, which dates from the 19th century on one side and the 13th on the other, there will be nothing left", Andre Finot, a spokesman for Notre Dame, told Agence France-Presse.

Alain Faubert, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Montreal, said whenever he goes to Paris he makes a point to stop by the cathedral. "We can be only horrified by what we see".

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