Comment: French president Macron was due to address the nation this evening (8pm CET) via TV with conclusions from 4 months of a 'Great Debate', his government's answer to the 'yellow vest' uprising. His speech has been postponed by the shocking news that France's iconic 850-year-old Catholic Cathedral has been completely destroyed by fire...

notre dame cathedral fire
© Agence France-Presse / Francois GuillotFlames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. A fire broke out at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris, potentially involving renovation works being carried out at the site, the fire service said.
The medieval Catholic cathedral, an irreplaceable example of ancient French Gothic architecture, went up in flames in the center of the French capital on Monday evening, with firefighters struggling to douse the flames.

Social media users near the scene of the fire engulfing Notre-Dame de Paris have posted horrifying footage of the fire.

A Sputnik France stream of the situation showed the fire continuing to burn out of control as of 7:45 pm local time.

notre dame
© The Guardian
The footage showed a massive plume of smoke rising from the cathedral's roof, with bright orange flames seen rising from the roof and from inside windows looking out onto River Seine.

The fire reportedly began at around 6:50 pm local time, according to the Paris fire department. AFP reported that the fire may have been started accidentally during renovation works underway inside the cathedral. Police are currently treating the fire as an accident.

Smoke and fire is seen leaping from the top of Notre Dame, the iconic Paris cathedral. Videos shot by people show the blaze engulfing the spire between its bell towers.
notre dame fire
© Agence France-Presse / Francois Guillot
The fire broke out in the cathedral on Monday afternoon, a Paris fire department confirmed, adding that a major operation to tackle the fire is underway.

The causes of the incident remain unknown so far.

The Medieval cathedral is one of the main attractions of the French capital, seeing 12 million tourists a year.

The incident took place as the jewel of the Gothic architecture was undergoing a major overhaul costing € 11 million ($ 12.43 million), with the renovation works being expected to be finished around 2022.

Last week, 16 bronze statues representing 12 apostles and four evangelists from the New Testament were lifted off the spire of the cathedral by crane. Some scaffolding can now be seen close to the flames leaping out near the cathedral's spire.

The spire itself was made of wood and covered with lead has long been in a bad shape as the elements of the construction dating back to the mid-nineteenth century have been damaged by weather, pollution and time.
notre dame fire
© @snoopynette/Periscope
The cathedral was being built from 13th to 15th century.