CLOSE

A fire erupted at the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
USA TODAY

PARIS – A massive fire rages on the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris which shocked crowds gathered in streets, bridges and squares to see one of the world's most iconic churches burning.

The cathedral sprout was swallowed up in flames Monday before tumbling over. Video footage from the scene showed fire and smoke spewing from the landmark, one of the world's most popular tourist destinations and home to priceless works of art. The flames seemed to shoot out of the roof behind the cathedral.

Fire burned for hours, practically rude despite hundreds of firefighters. The flames continued to glow when darkness fell.

"I don't have the words for this," says Anastasia Collas, 29, an advertising worker who watched and took video of the move from Hotel de Ville across the river from Notre Dame. "I live nearby, I want to cry. I do not know if we will lose it altogether, but this is devastating. I will stay here until it ends."

Rescue measures are underway to recover valuable artifacts and the city's prosecutors announced that they initiated an investigation into the fire, which preliminary accounts say to be inadvertent.

"A special mission has been launched to try to save all the works of art that can be saved", Emmanuel Grégoire, first deputy to the mayor of Paris, said on French television.

A spokesman for Notre Dame, Andre Finot, told Le Figaro magazine that the cathedral's "treasure" has not been touched so far. "We must see if the vault, which protects the cathedral, will touch," he said. "The sacred objects are preserved in the sacristy, normally there is no risk of it burning."

Smoke and flames rise during a fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019. (Photo: FRANCOIS GUILLOT, AFP / Getty Images )

There was no immediate word of damage. Many tourists and others in the area lost social media to inform friends and relatives that they were not injured. The flame comes during Holy Week, an important event for the Catholic Church with Easter six days away.

Firefighters burst the inferno with water from a ladder truck but did not pick up from above. Some could be seen as working within the structure itself. A perimeter is held at least one circumference of three blocks.

"Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame," said Finot.

The reason was not immediately known, but officials said it could be linked to renovation work. The Cathedral is in the middle of a $ 6.8 million renovation project.

More: Resandex shock, horror over Notre Dame fire, share memories from their visits

] More: Hackback, bin and Relics: As Notre Dame Burns, 5 Things to Know About the Cathedral

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo denied "colossal damage" and said several hundred firefighters were on the scene.

"So horrible to look at the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris," President Donald Trump tweeted. "

View Thumbnails

View Captions