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‘Catastrophic fire’ inflicts major damage on Notre Dame Cathedral

In Paris and across the globe, stunned spectators watched in horror as the Notre Dame Cathedral burned Monday. The fire started in the evening, shortly after the building was closed to the public, and appears to have caused “catastrophic” damage to one of the world’s most famous cultural and artistic landmarks. Judy Woodruff talks to Kate Moody of the French news channel France 24 for the latest.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In Paris tonight, there is catastrophe. Fire has gutted much of the centuries-old Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the world's great landmarks. The flames broke out late in the day and burned into the night. Crews struggled to save what they could, the 800-year-old structure itself, priceless stained glass and religious relics.

    For the latest, we turn to Kate Moody. She is a reporter with the French news channel France 24.

    Kate Moody, thank you for going joining us.

    What's the very latest? We are seeing that the firefighters are saying they can save some of the structure?

  • Kate Moody:

    Absolutely.

    We're hearing from the French president in just the last few moments, Judy, saying that the worst has been avoided and that those two dual bell towers that are so emblematic of Notre Dame will, in fact, be saved.

    But, of course, there's really no going back from what has been an absolutely catastrophic fire this evening. It broke out just minutes after the cathedral had closed to the public around 6:45 local time here, and, within minutes, really, the entire roof had been engulfed in flames.

    We saw that very tall about 300-foot spire collapsing about an hour into the fire. That was one of the most dramatic images that we'd really seen of the evening. And then the entire roof, this vaulted woodwork roof that has been really in place since medieval times, was then engulfed in flames as well.

    And we are hearing that that has been ruined almost entirely, really destroyed. So, a small bit of good news, if the — if most of the stonework will be able to stay standing, but really a lot of people saying that Notre Dame, as we know it, perhaps is gone this evening.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just sickening to watch this for the last few hours.

    Kate, tell us, what do we know about the cause, if anything?

  • Kate Moody:

    Well, there's a lot of speculation. Most of it centers around the fact that Notre Dame has been undergoing an incredibly extensive renovation project for the last few years. It's a 20-year project that was going to be costing over 100 million euros.

    Cracks had started to appear in the foundation. And so this renovation was done to try to protect the cathedral, perhaps, ironically, given what has happened this evening.

    A lot of the discussion really centering about — around this renovation work that was being undergone. Now, it has to be said that, because of all the work that was happening, some of the artwork that's in Notre Dame had actually been removed.

    About a dozen large statutes that were on the roof, for example, had been removed only last week for cleaning. And so some of that may have been saved. We are hearing a lot of the artwork there may have been saved. The relics of the Crown of Thorns that was on display at Notre Dame, we understand, has been salvaged.

    We don't know the fate of the very, very famous stained glass windows that are in Notre Dame. They seem to be intact for now, but, of course, there's no telling what kind of damage the smoke or heat may do to them.

    What we're hearing from French people this evening is absolute sadness about the state of what is really a national treasure. This is something that 13 million people around the world come to see every year, but it's a real treasure for the French people as well.

    Napoleon was crowned there. Charles de Gaulle celebrated victory after World War II. There were commemorations there after the Paris terror attacks back in 2015. One French historian this evening watching the flames saying it feels like he's saying goodbye to an old friend.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we are all just bereft watching this happen.

    Kate Moody with France 24 in Paris, thank you.

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