People across the world watched in shock on television and social media as the spire of Paris’s world famous Notre Dame cathedral toppled amid a massive fire.
Officials said the blaze may be linked to renovation work at the 850-year-old building, with pictures showing the scaffolding around the cathedral alight.
Hundreds of people on bridges around Notre Dame gathered to witness as fire engulfed the famed cathedral.
Photos and videos on social media showed the roof of the 850-year-old Gothic building covered in flames, sending a huge plume of smoke across the city’s skyline.
The heartbreaking moment when the spire collapsed was captured on social media as onlookers gasped from down below.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper said she is in Paris and saw the spire of Notre Dame fall, but “can’t bear to watch any more”.
“Have just come away from the bank of the Seine after the spire fell as I can’t bear to watch any more,” she tweeted.
“Fearful for anyone close to the flames, and aghast that centuries of history & beauty could disappear into smoke so fast.”
The Paris fire brigade can be seen in videos dousing the blaze with water.
A church spokesman said all of the cathedral’s frame is burning after the spire collapsed.
The emergency services are trying to salvage the priceless artworks stored in the cathedral.
US President Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that the fire should be 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 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.”
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.”