Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral

3:56 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

The Vatican expresses "shock and sadness"

The Vatican has released the following statement in response to the Notre Dame fire:

“The Holy See has learned with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, symbol of Christianity, in France and in the world. We express our closeness to the French Catholic and to the people of Paris. We pray for the fire fighters and for all those who are doing everything possible to face this dramatic situation.”
5:27 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

Theresa May: "My thoughts are with the people of France"

UK Prime Minister Theresa May just tweeted about the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral:

3:52 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

French government agency responds to Trump's suggestion of using "flying water tankers": That could collapse the "entire structure"

BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images
BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

The French civil security agency, Sécurité Civile, has responded to US President Donald Trump’s suggestion that “flying water tankers” should be used to fight the Notre Dame fire.

The agency tweeted, “The drop of water by air on this type of building could indeed result in the collapse of the entire structure.”

“The weight of the water and the intensity of the drop at low altitude could indeed weaken the structure of Notre-Dame and result in collateral damage to the buildings in the vicinity,” it said.

The civil security agency is part of the Interior Ministry.

Earlier today, Trump had said on Twitter, “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”

3:36 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

US bishops conference: Notre Dame is "a world treasure"

ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, shared his shock and sadness, calling the cathedral "a world treasure."

In a statement to the people of Paris, DiNardo said the cathedral has "long been a symbol of the transcendent human spirit as well as our longing for God."

Read his full statement:

“The horrific fire that is engulfing the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is shocking and saddens us all, for this particular cathedral is not only a majestic Church, it is also a world treasure. Noble in architecture and art, it has long been a symbol of the transcendent human spirit as well as our longing for God. Our hearts go out to the Archbishop and the people of Paris, and we pray for all the people of France, entrusting all to the prayers and intercession of the Mother of God, especially the firefighters battling the fire. We are a people of hope and of the resurrection, and as devastating as this fire is, I know that the faith and love embodied by this magnificent Cathedral will grow stronger in the hearts of all Christians.”
3:51 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

The crowd outside Notre Dame is singing hymns as the cathedral burns

As evening falls in Paris, crowds are still gathered near Notre Dame as the historic cathedral burns.

A witness earlier in the day had described an eerie silence; now, the crowd has begun to sing hymns together, many on their knees.

Watch it here:

3:21 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

A Paris without its Notre Dame? "Madness," eyewitness says

Thibaud Binétruy, who lives in Paris, just told CNN of what it was like when the spire fell:

"I was walking home with a colleague. We were walking (on) Rue des Carmes. And we saw the smoke. I couldn’t stop staring at it, so I took some pics. When the spire fell, the crowd reacted with 'ohhh' and 'ahh,' but I guess most of them were just shocked, silently. It’s awful to see such a symbol disappearing in front of you. It’s been there for so many years and in a few minutes half of it disappears... crazy. Paris without Notre Dame...madness."

3:38 p.m. ET, April 15, 2019

400 firefighters mobilized for Notre Dame blaze 

The French Interior Ministry said 400 firefighters have been mobilized to deal with the Notre Dame blaze. The cathedral's iconic spire collapsed earlier this evening. The central spire was built in the 19th century amid a broad restoration effort, partly buoyed by the success of Victor Hugo's novel "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" in 1831.

Pompiers de Paris/Twitter
Pompiers de Paris/Twitter