PARIS — Emmanuel Macron said France “will rebuild Notre Dame” after a catastrophic fire at the famed Paris cathedral shocked the country Monday evening and prompted the president to postpone a major speech.
Macron had been due to give a televised address to outline measures he plans to take following nationwide public debates held in response to the Yellow Jackets protest movement. Instead, he traveled to the cathedral to inspect the blaze and the efforts of firefighters to bring it under control.
Returning to the site four hours after the fire broke out, a visibly emotional and solemn Macron announced a worldwide fundraising campaign would be launched Tuesday to help rebuild the cathedral.
“It is a terrible tragedy … Notre Dame is the cathedral of all French … [it is] the epicenter of our life,” Macron said, saluting the “extreme courage” of the firefighters who were still battling the fire. Officials said they had managed to save the structure of the cathedral from collapse.
In the early hours of Tuesday, firefighters managed to get the fire under control and “partially extinguished,” according to a spokesman. Paris fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet added: “We consider the main structure of Notre Dame has been saved and preserved.”
The large blaze at the iconic, 850-year-old cathedral is “potentially linked” to renovation works, France Info reported, citing firefighters. The cathedral, which attracts about 13 million visitors a year, has been undergoing renovations. Last week, the cathedral’s famous statues were taken apart to be restored.
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted: “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!”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he is following the fire “minute by minute.”
“Notre-Dame de Paris belongs to all humanity,” he said. “What a sad spectacle. What horror. I share the emotion of the French nation, which is also our own.”
The German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said: “It hurts to see these horrible pictures of the burning Notre Dame. Notre Dame is a symbol of France and our European culture. We are with our French friends in our thoughts.”
–POLITICO contributed to this report.