DFA checking with PHL Embassy in Paris if there are Filipinos affected by Notre Dame fire

(Eagle News) — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is monitoring developments regarding the fire that destroyed the centuries old historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and checking if there were any Filipinos affected by the incident.

So far, it said, that there were no reports of victims in the area.

“The Philippine Embassy in Paris is checking with authorities if there are any victims due to the incident,” the DFA said in a statement.

Citing official reports about the incident, the DFA said that the “fire broke out after the end of visiting hours.”

“Officials said that the incident was probably caused by the renovations that the church is undergoing,” it added.

The steeple of the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral collapses as the cathedral is engulfed in flames in central Paris on April 15, 2019. – A huge fire swept through the roof of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky. The flames and smoke plumed from the spire and roof of the gothic cathedral, visited by millions of people a year. (Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

-Cathedral spire crashes to the ground-

A fire that spread from the attic of Notre-Dame cathedral on Monday has caused its spire to crash to the ground, and devastated Paris’s historical monument.

The fire began around 6.50 pm Paris time (1650 GMT) or 12:50 a.m., Tuesday, April 16, Manila time.

“I was not far away, I saw the smoke. At first I thought it was the Hotel-Dieu (hospital) but then I realised it was the cathedral. When I arrived, ash was beginning to fall,” said Olivier De Chalus, head volunteer guide of the cathedral.

According to initial reports, the cause of the blaze was not immediately known.

The fire spread from the attic, and quickly across a large part of the roof.

The flames devoured the roof’s wooden frame, which is more than 100 meters in length and nicknamed “the forest”.

An investigation was opened for accidental destruction by fire, Paris prosecutors said.

Investigators were focused on whether the fire spread from the site of ongoing reconstruction work on the roof of the cathedral, a source close to the investigation said.

Construction workers were spoken to Monday evening by investigators, the department said.

– Fire ‘under control’ –

Firefighters announced early Tuesday the fire was “completely under control” and “partially extinguished”. Only “residual fires” were still burning.

Around 11.00 pm (2100 GMT) or 5 a.m. Manila time, they announced that the structure of the cathedral had been “saved and preserved”.

From the moment the fire was spotted, a major emergency operation was put in place to contain the blaze.

Four hundred firefighters with 18 fire hoses, some perched on cranes tens of meters off the ground, battled to contain the fire as quickly as possible.

However, using water-bombing aircraft — as suggested by US President Donald Trump — was not considered: “If used, (this) could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral,” France’s civil security service tweeted.

– Extent of damage –

At around 7.50 pm (1750 GMT), the cathedral’s spire — one of Paris’s most famous landmarks at 93 metres high — collapsed.

Within a few hours, a large part of the roof had been reduced to ashes.

The extent of the damage inside the cathedral was not yet known by around 11.00 pm (2100 GMT).

“The fire affected two-thirds of the roof, which has collapsed, as well as the spire,” said Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet, adding that the operation was focused on preserving the rear of the cathedral where the most valuable works are located.

(with a report from Agence France Presse)