Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, caught fire on April 15, 2019. Over 400 firefighters were mobilized to save the more than 800-year-old building.
President Macron toured the site in the evening as flames brought down its famous spire, and reports indicated that the heat from the fire was so intense it could be felt on the other side of the Seine River.
So far there are no reported casualties. The fire broke out around 6:50 p.m. and, as of this report, both bell towers on the front facade have been saved and firefighters are optimistic that other parts of the building can also be preserved. One firefighter was seriously injured but the blaze has been contained and is in a “cooling off” phase.
Residents and visitors to the city gathered in the streets, singing hymns as the firefighters sprayed water on the flames throughout the night.
Reports say that the fire began in the attic of the cathedral, giving some hope that artifacts and artworks inside of the building may have been saved as people inside the cathedral had some time to escape the blaze.
Travel agents have reacted to the disaster with messages of support to Paris.
“The fire at Notre Dame is absolutely devastating for Paris and the world. The Cathedral is an irreplaceable marvel of history, art, architecture, and religion,” said Susie Chau of Carpe Diem Traveler. “It’s a somber and heartbreaking reminder that world treasures like these are fragile and nothing is guaranteed to be around forever.”
“I am truly saddened by this tragedy…Notre Dame is irreplaceable, one of the greatest Paris symbols, the heart of Paris, a tragic loss. My heart is aching. It hurts to watch this beautiful church and the history behind it being destroyed by fire,” said Terry Bahri of TerryB Luxury Travel.
“Having personally been to Notre Dame and having booked hundreds of clients there over the last several years, it is incredibly sad to see the fire and devastation to this cathedral,” said Tom Varghese of Travel Tom in Rockville, Maryland. “I am hoping they are able to put out the fires quickly and restore the cathedral to the iconic structure it has always been.”
Tour operators, who bring thousands of visitors to Paris and Notre Dame each year expressed sadness over the disaster.
“The fire at Notre Dame Cathedral is devastating,” said G Adventures’ vice president of product, Yves Marceau. “[It’s] beyond comprehension. It is an iconic monument to human ingenuity, resilience and architecture that has been part of western culture for more than 800 years, and those who had the honor to visit Notre Dame are among the privileged. Each visit revealed something new and beautiful to the beholder. And now in less than one day, it may be irreparably damaged.”
Marceau also noted that there could be an economic impact as well.
“If Notre Dame is lost, it will have an impact on France and Paris for generations to come,” added Marceau. “It will change how and where travelers visit in Paris, and it will have a grievous economic impact on the hundreds of small, local businesses that depend on its visitors. We are all pulling for France’s courageous firefighters to save what they can.”
Avanti Destinations’ executive chairman, Paul Barry expressed sorrow over the devastation and noted that the tour operator is touching base with its travelers in the city to ensure that they are okay.
“In any disaster, Avanti has a Crisis Management Team that gets in touch with every traveler in the affected destination. That is happening now,” said Barry.
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