Paris' Notre Dame cathedral in flames

Renovations had been underway at the cathedral

Renovations had been underway at the cathedral

Nobody was injured, junior interior minister Laurent Nunez said at the scene, adding: "It's too early to determine the causes of the fire".

"Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame", Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told French media.

Notre Dame, one of the world's most visited landmarks, was constructed in 1163 during the reign of King Louis VII and was completed in 1345.

"We express our solidarity to French Catholics and to the people of Paris and we offer our prayers for firefighters and those who are doing what is possible to face this dramatic situation", said Gisotti.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately confirmed, but the cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work to help the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece better deal with the tests of time.

"I am sad to see this part of us burn", he said on Twitter.

Years of rain, snow and pollution were eroding the flying buttresses that prop the cathedral up, said Picaud, and that was putting the whole cathedral at risk of falling down.

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The cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, features in Victor Hugo's classic novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame".

"Fire commanders say they are often pressured to order planes and helicopters into action on major fires even when the aircraft won't do any good".

President Emmanuel Macron cancelled a speech to the nation and was on his way to the scene.

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo labelled the fire "terrible" despite the extent of the damage being unclear at this stage.

Built like a "poor people's book", the cathedral's exterior featured sculptures and reliefs illustrating the stories from the Bible - for example, the western facade facing the square showed the Last Judgment - as well as gargoyles and other monstrous creatures. "Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre Dame". It was vandalized in the 16th century by Huguenots and was used as a food warehouse during the French Revolution. Additional cleaning and restoration work was done in the 1960s and again in the 1990s.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, the fire broke out in the attic of the historic monument before spreading to engulf a large section of the roof.

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