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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 April 2019

Notre-Dame Cathedral fire: tributes pour in from across the world

Theresa May, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and many other leaders express sadness

Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019.  AFP
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019.  AFP

The inferno that raged through the landmark of Notre-Dame Cathedral on Monday evening did not only shock Parisians, but the whole world.

Thousands of onlookers stood on the banks of the River Seine were stunned into silence as the blaze engulfed the World Heritage Site the day after Palm Sunday and less than a week before Easter, two key dates on the Catholic calendar.

The 850-year-old medieval monument is of global significance. Attracting more than 13 million visitors a year, it is the most-visited tourist site in Paris, beating the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre.

Tributes poured in from all over the globe and world leaders responded quickly to the crisis.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said: "My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre-Dame Cathedral."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "It is with deep sadness that I am watching the events in Paris.

"I am sorry to see these terrible images of Our Dame, symbol of France and our European culture, in flames. Our thoughts are with our French friends."

US President Donald Trump’s response was more off-the-cuff, on his favourite social networking site, Twitter: "So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly."

Barack Obama, the former US president, struck a more empathetic tone, saying that the cathedral was one of the “world’s great treasures” before adding that he was thinking of people of France “in your time of grief".

“It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can,” Mr Obama said.

British Labour member of parliament Yvette Cooper was near Notre-Dame Cathedral with her daughter on a trip to the French capital and said she was fearful of anyone close to the flames.

Film star Idris Elba tweeted he “couldn’t believe” what was happening to Notre-Dame, while French chef Eric Ripert said it was “very sad” to watch the building burning.

Rock band Pearl Jam recalled visiting the historic site on their first trip to Paris in 1991.

In the world of sport, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal said he was going to sleep still in shock over the images of the burning cathedral.

Religious leaders and holy sites also paid their tributes to the monument.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, particularly in this time of Holy Week,” a spokesperson for London’s St Paul’s Cathedral wrote on Twitter.

The Vatican also issued a statement about the cathedral, saying: “The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”

The Vatican said it was praying for firefighters and officials trying to stop the fire on Monday.

The 400 firefighters showed heroism by saving the structure of the building, which many feared would not be intact on Tuesday morning. About 700 people were inside the building when the fire broke out and all got escaped unscathed, though one firefighter who was seriously injured.

Firefighters managed to get almost all of the precious artifacts out of the building before they got destroyed by the blaze. Around the streets of Paris, people were singing and praying for the holy site.

The French President Emmanuel Macron called the blaze “a terrible drama”, but he was also optimistic. From the scene, Mr Macron promised to rebuild the monument as “it was the destiny” of the French people.

Updated: April 16, 2019 03:52 PM

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