‘NOTHING WILL REMAIN’: Catastrophic fire engulfs Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral

PARIS (AP) — A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris’ soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. France’s Interior Ministry said firefighters might not be able to save the structure.

The blaze collapsed the cathedral’s spire and spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers. A spokesman said the entire wooden frame of the cathedral would likely come down, and that the vault of the edifice could be threatened too.

“Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame,” Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told French media. The 12th-century cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, immortalized by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

The cause of the blaze was not known, but French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire is “potentially linked” to a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the church’s spire and its 250 tons of lead. Prosecutors opened an investigation as Paris police said there were no reported deaths. Some 400 firefighters were battling the blaze well into the night.

Flames shot out of the roof behind the nave of the cathedral, among the most visited landmarks in the world. Hundreds of people lined up bridges around the island that houses the cathedral, watching in shock as acrid smoke rose in plumes.

The fire came less than a week before Easter amid Holy Week commemorations. As the cathedral continued to burn, Parisians gathered to pray and sing hymns outside the church of Saint Julien Les Pauvres across the river from Notre Dame, as the flames lit the sky behind them.

French President Emmanuel Macron was treating the fire as a national emergency, rushing to the scene and straight into meetings at the Paris police headquarters nearby. Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit invited priests across France to ring church bells in a call for prayers for the beloved Paris cathedral.

Deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said emergency services were trying to salvage the famed art pieces stored in the cathedral.

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre Dame is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages as well as one of the most beloved structures in the world. Situated on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the Seine river, the cathedral’s architecture is famous for, among other things, its many gargoyles and its iconic flying buttresses.

Among the most celebrated artworks inside are its three stained-glass rose windows, placed high up on the west, north and south faces of the cathedral. Its priceless treasures also include a Catholic relic, the crown of thorns, which is only occasionally displayed, including on Fridays during Lent.

French historian Camille Pascal told BFM broadcast channel the blaze marked “the destruction of invaluable heritage.”

“It’s been 800 years that the Cathedral watches over Paris”, Pascal said. “Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre Dame.”

He added: “We can be only horrified by what we see.”

Associated Press reporters at the scene saw massive plumes of yellow brown smoke filling the air above the Cathedral and ash falling on the island that houses Notre Dame and marks the center of Paris. As the spire fell, the sky lit up orange.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is in despair at the “terrible fire.” Hidalgo said in a Twitter message that Paris firefighters are still trying to limit the fire and urged Paris citizens to respect the security perimeter that has been set around the cathedral.

Hidalgo said Paris authorities are in touch with the Paris diocese.

Reactions from around the world came swiftly including from the Vatican, which released a statement expressing shock and sadness for the “terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”

In Washington, Trump tweeted: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris” and suggested first responders use “flying water tankers” to put it out.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said he was praying “to ask the intercession of Notre Dame, our Lady, for the Cathedral at the heart of Paris, and of civilization, now in flames! God preserve this splendid house of prayer, and protect those battling the blaze.”


Associated Press writers Elaine Ganley and Sylvie Corbet contributed to the contents of this report.



REPORT: France’s Macron caught between protests, Strasbourg attack

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to take back control of his nation after a month of protests that caused mayhem across the country — and now a new extremist attack that’s putting France on renewed terror alert.

Striving to show he’s responding to “yellow vest” protesters’ demands for tax relief, the French leader maintained his planned agenda Wednesday: He held his weekly Cabinet meeting and talks with big public and private companies, notably to encourage them to give a tax-free, year-end bonus to their employees.

At the same time, Macron’s office said he was staying constantly informed about the investigation into Tuesday’s Strasbourg attack and hunt for the gunman, still on the run.

Macron said “the terrorist threat is still at the core of our nation’s life,” in comments reported by government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.

“Public order must prevail in every place and every circumstance,” Macron added.

Within his presidential palace and the halls of government, concerns about the protests remain intense despite the Strasbourg scare.

The attack Tuesday night came just 24 hours after Macron broke a long silence on the mushrooming protest movement and appealed in an unusual televised address to the nation for calm. He announced tax relief for retirees and boost purchasing power of workers.

An estimated 23 million viewers watched him live — more than the audience for France’s victory in soccer’s World Cup final in July, and a historic record for a televised address by a president.

The president’s office noted the viewership as a positive signal: proof that the French still listen to Macron, despite persistent calls from protesters for his resignation.

Yet public opinion appeared split over whether he succeeded or not.

Some members of the Yellow Vest movement have already called for new protests on Saturday, arguing the government’s measures were not sufficient.

Others have called for a “truce,” acknowledging that progress has been made.

Griveaux told reporters that it’s not the government’s role to call for the end of the protests. He said the government is now offering conditions for a “dialogue that doesn’t take place in the street.”

Three online polls made after Macron’s speech by Odoxa, Opinionway and Elabe institutes show that a majority of respondents still shows sympathy for the Yellow Vest movement, but the support appears to be receding compared to previous weeks.

The protests have weakened Macron’s credibility — which also matters on the European stage. He’s maintaining his plans to go Thursday to Brussels for a key European summit that will focus on the Brexit process, but his stature within the EU is somewhat diminished. Macron’s promises to protesters could cut into French growth and hurt his efforts to stick to EU deficit limits.

Meanwhile, his government is about to face a no-confidence vote at the lower house of parliament.

The vote prompted by far-left and Socialist lawmakers is not expected to succeed, as Macron’s party and allies have a strong majority at the National Assembly.

The vote, initially scheduled Thursday, may be postponed as a consequence of the shooting in Strasbourg that killed two, left one person brain dead and injured 12 others.

Associated Press writer Sylvie Corbet contributed to the contents of this report.



WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump is expected to announce his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, published reports claimed on Wednesday (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/trump-plans-withdraw-paris-climate-deal-article-1.3209157).

The agreement, which was entered in to by the Obama administration in 2015, was the crown jewel of climate change believing Democrats because it would have forced the U.S. to reduce fossil fuel emissions by nearly 30 percent by the year 2025.

In response to reports that Trump is planning to bow out, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called President Donald Trump’s decision “a stunning abdication of American leadership,” saying in a statement (http://www.democraticleader.gov/newsroom/53117/) that withdrawing from the agreement will result in “a grave threat to our planet’s future.”
“In walking away from this agreement, the President is denying scientific truths, removing safeguards that protect our health and our environment, protecting polluters and their dirty energy agenda, and threatening our national and global security,” Pelosi said.

During the president’s trip abroad last week, European leaders reportedly pressured him to honor the previous administration’s agreement, but the pleas fell on deaf ears according to administration sources.

“I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” the president, who repeatedly vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the deal throughout his presidential campaign tweeted on Wednesday.

However, not everyone inside the Trump administration believes pulling out of the agreement, which was signed by nearly 200 other countries, is the right choice.

Elon Musk, who currently serves as an adviser to the president on the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative and the Strategic and Policy Forum, announced on Wednesday that he will resign if the president decides to withdraw.

“[I] don’t know which way Paris will go,” Musk tweeted (https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/869970236669177856), “but I’ve done all I can to advise directly to POTUS, through others in WH & via councils, that we remain.”
When asked what his response will be should the president decide to withdraw from the agreement, Musk responded, “will have no choice but to depart councils in that case.”

Nick Burns, who served as a high ranking adviser in the George W. Bush’s administration, also went public on Wednesday with his concerns.

“This would be a colossal mistake,” said Burns. “It would also devastate our international credibility. We are one of the two largest carbon emitters, with China. We are the ones who put this deal together. It is the first step to try to do something about climate change. For President Trump to take us out, it is anti-science.”

Regardless of the push back, sources close to the president say he will not be pressured into making a decision he believes is economically bad for the country just for the sake of popularity.

During a press briefing on Wednesday, press secretary Sean Spicer said he wasn’t at liberty to say whether or not the president had made a final decision on withdrawing from the Paris agreement.

“I obviously don’t know whether he’s made it,” Spicer said during an afternoon briefing. “When the President has a decision he will make that announcement and he will make it clear what the basis of that is.”