Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral
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:
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."
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.
US President Donald Trump said Notre Dame's famous cathedral was struck by a “terrible, terrible fire."
“When we left the plane, it was burning at a level that you rarely see a fire burn,” he said, referring to his trip from Washington to Minnesota for a tax-day roundtable with business leaders.
The President lamented the damage to the historic cathedral.
“That’s beyond countries, that’s beyond anything,” he said. “It’s a part of our culture.”
He said the fire would put “a damper” on the tax roundtable he was about to begin.
Listen to President Trump here:
Patryk Bukalski was at a café near the Notre Dame Cathedral when he started smelling smoke.
“A bartender said the Notre Dame is on fire, so I left and saw this horrible picture,” he told CNN over Instagram, where he posted a video of the burning cathedral.
He said people are standing outside, just watching and crying. “It’s horrible. It’s a symbol of Paris,” Bukalski said. “It’s just sad. I don’t know what more to say.”
At the scene: It is eerily quiet. Hundreds of people are lining the Seine watching the fire, but they are silent. Police have pushed people back, even telling residents they can’t go to their homes.
“In Paris, it’s a monumental symbol -- every person with different religions are really moved and saddened," said another witness named Anne Marie, speaking with tears in her eyes.
"Paris without the cathedral is not Paris anymore," she said.
See the crowds here:
French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived at the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, where a fire rages on.
He was accompanied by Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and first lady Brigitte Macron, as well as the Paris prosecutor.
Witness Elaine Leavenworth said ash and embers were falling from the sky as a fire tore through the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Leavenworth said she felt droplets of water as firefighters worked to douse the flames.
She shared this photo of a tiny piece of debris in the palm of a hand: