Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris ablaze

A major fire has broken out at the medieval Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris, leading firefighters to clear the area around one of the city’s most visited landmarks.

The fire has now spread towards the giant spire of the cathedral, as crowds gathered in nearby squares.

Smoke could be seen billowing out from the top of the gothic cathedral, as flames leapt out beside its two bell towers, a Reuters witness said.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the fire. France 2 television reported that police were treating the incident as an accident.

The cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century and is famous for featuring in Victor Hugo’s classic novel the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, attracts millions of tourists every year.

“A terrible fire is underway at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Twitter.

French President Emmanuel Macron canceled his planned speech to the nation in light of the “terrible fire” underway at Paris’ Notre-Dame cathedral, said an official at the president’s Elysee office.

A major operation was under way, the fire department said, while a city hall spokesman said on Twitter that the area was being cleared.

Notre-Dame was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding, while bronze statues were removed last week for works.

Seen from across the Seine River, smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris today, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said. (Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images)

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