Crowds of stunned Parisians and tourists – some crying, others offering prayers – watched on in horror in central Paris as flames engulfed the Notre-Dame cathedral.
Gasps and cries of "Oh my god" erupted at 7:50 pm local time when the top portion of the church's spire came crashing down into an inferno that spread to the entire roof.
More gasps came a few seconds later when the rest of the spire collapsed, caught on the cameras of thousands of mobile phones.
One tourist caught the moment on film from a boat on the River Seine.
One person witnessing the event tweeted the reactions of those standing close to him, watching the flames rip through the iconic Paris monument.
He wrote: "Sorry son, but it's not every day that Notre Dame burns," says a father to his impatient baby, two meters away from a woman in tears, saying "they must do something! they have to do something! "
"Désolé mon fils, mais c'est pas tous les jours que Notre-Dame brûle", dit un père à son bébé qui s'impatiente, à deux mètres d'une femme en larmes, soufflant "faut qu'ils fassent quelque chose ! faut qu'ils fassent quelque chose !" #notredame pic.twitter.com/mPxIbGh8Vp
— Jean Birnbaum (@JeanBirnbaum) April 15, 2019
"Paris is disfigured. The city will never be like it was before," said Philippe, a communications worker in his mid-30s, who had biked over after being alerted of the fire by a friend.
"It's a tragedy," he added. "If you pray, now is the time to pray."
Police were attempting to clear pedestrians away from the two islands in the river Seine, including the Ile de la Cite which houses the soaring Gothic church, one of Europe's best known landmarks.
But throngs of onlookers kept trying to approach, snarling traffic as they massed on the stone bridges leading to the islands.
Another woman passed by, tears running from behind her glasses, too overwhelmed to speak to reporters.
"It's finished, we'll never be able to seRead More – Source