Vatican shares sadness over Notre Dame blaze

STILL TITLED: Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (MGN)

PARIS (AP) - The Vatican has issued a statement about the "terrible fire" that has "devastated" Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The Vatican said: "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 statement says the Vatican is praying for firefighters "and those who are doing everything possible to confront this dramatic situation" on Monday.

It also expressed "our closeness to French Catholics and the population of Paris, and we assure our prayers for firefighters

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron is treating the fire gutting Notre Dame Cathedral as a national emergency.

Macron reached the landmark cathedral on Monday evening and went straight into meetings at the nearby Paris police headquarters.

France's civil security agency says "all means" except for water-dropping aircraft were deployed to tackle the blaze.

The defense agency said those were unsuitable for fires like the one at Notre Dame because dumping water on the building could cause the whole structure to collapse.

The mammoth fire that destroyed the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral has spread to one of the church's landmark rectangular towers.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene of Monday's fire in Paris watched the flames blazing behind an oblong stained-glass window in the tower.

Paris police say fighters are inside the cathedral working to put the flames out while others work from the exterior. Red smoke is pouring out of the cathedral.

A Notre Dame spokesman said earlier that the church's entire wooden interior was in flames.

French writer and historian Camille Pascal said the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral has caused "the destruction of invaluable heritage" and "we can be only horrified by what we see."

Pascal told French broadcaster BFMTV: "It's been 800 years that the Cathedral watches over Paris" and its bells pealed for both "happy and unfortunate events."

He recalled that Notre Dame's bells sounded a death knell after the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris.

Authorities are investigating if renovation work on the cathedral's fire was a factor in starting or spreading the fire.

On Thursday, 16 religious statues were removed from the peak for the first time in over a century to be taken for cleaning and therefore escaped the blaze.

U.S. President Donald Trump has tweeted about the fire engulfing Paris' iconic Notre Dame Cathedral.

Trump wrote on Twitter after the fire broke out Monday: "So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris" and made suggestions for how first responders should tackle it.

He said: "Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out," adding: "Must act quickly!"

Firefighters were trying to contain the fire when the cathedral's spire collapsed. Authorities say the wooden interior now is burning.