FIREFIGHTERS have saved Paris' Notre Dame cathedral from total destruction after a massive inferno wrecked part of the iconic landmark this evening.
Dramatic drone pictures show the devastation caused by the savage blaze which has already laid waste to the 850-year-old church's spire.
A fire service spokesman said the two towers and the main structure of the cathedral have been saved from complete destruction as blaze begins to weaken.
He added that three or four hours are needed to contain the rampaging flames while France's Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez said “the fire had decreased in intensity"
Emmanuel Gregoire, the deputy mayor of Paris, said the cathedral had suffered "colossal damages" and that emergency workers were trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored inside.
Scaffolding that had been set up around the building has been decimated along with large parts of the Cathedral itself, including the spire, which dates back to the mid-19th Century.
A "stray flame" linked to £5 million renovation work is thought to have sparked the inferno in the loft at around 5.30pm local time.
"It appears that it all began as a relatively small fire linked to a stray flame in the roof," said an emergency services source.
"The fire was so high up that it was difficult to get to, meaning it soon spread across the roof, causing a terrible blaze."
Police said no deaths have been reported although a firefighter has been "seriously injured" while battling the blaze, according to reports.
As the blaze raged, Paris authorities admitted that getting firefighters to the top of the building “was almost impossible.”
“It’s much too high up, and the only access is stone and spiral staircases – getting fire fighting crews up there is impossible,” said an emergency services source.
“This means that the fire has been able to spread across the roof, and it now threatening the two main Gothic towers.”
The source added: “We are not aware of any casualties, or of anyone being trapped, so there will be no emergency rescue plans being put into action.”
An emergency services source said that a water drop via plane or helicopter "was impossible" because the weight of the water dropped at low altitude would weaken the building and cause "extreme damage."
"Everything is collapsing," a cop near the scene said as the entire roof of the cathedral continued to burn.
Firefighters cleared the area around the cathedral, which marks the very centre of Paris, while nearby buildings around were evacuated.
"An evacuation is in progress," said a police officer at the scene. "People are being advised to clear the area."
Panicked locals have expressed their concern for the medieval cathedral on Twitter.
One witness wrote: "It’s getting worse. But the fire brigade has turned up. Hard to see how the tackle this. The plume of smoke is already 100s of feet long."
The fire brigade can be seen in videos dousing the savage blaze with water.
French leader Emmanuel Macron, who postponed a televised speech to the nation because of the massive fire, has attended the scene.
Our Lady of Paris: A history of Notre Dame
- The legendary church is one the finest example of French Gothic architecture in Europe and one of the most visited buildings in the world.
- Notre Dame – which means 'Our Lady’ – was build in 1160 and completed by 1260, and has been modified on a number of occasions throughout the century.
- It is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris and is visited by some 12 million people every year.
- The original spire was build in 1250, and had five bells, but it was dismantled in the mid-19thCentury.
- It was replaced in 1850 by a spire by the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc and that was the one which was destroyed today.
- It was made to 500 tonnes of wood and 250 tonnes of lead and was 305ft high.
On Twitter, he wrote: “Notre Dame of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thoughts go out to all Catholics and all of France. Like all our countrymen, I'm sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”
US President Donald Trump suggested that the fire could be put out with "flying water tankers".
He tweeted: "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!"
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo described it as a "terrible fire" and urged people at the scene to stay safe.
The legendary church is one the finest example of French Gothic architecture in Europe and one of the most visited buildings in the world.
Notre Dame – which means 'Our Lady’ – was build in 1160 and completed by 1260, and has been modified on a number of occasions throughout the century.
It is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris and is visited by some 12 million people every year.
Officials at Westminster Abbey in London has said it is "devastated for our friends" in Paris.
A post from its official Twitter account read: "Devastated for our friends at #NotreDame and for the people of France.
"You are in our thoughts and prayers tonight."
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