Inferno engulfs Nantes cathedral as 60 firefighters battle to save 1434 church

Police have launched an arson investigation after an inferno broke out at Nantes Cathedral this morning which took 104 firefighters to control.  

Smoke was seen billowing out of the 15th-century structure in France as emergency services desperately tried to extinguish the inferno which is believed to have started at the cathedral's organ. 

Prosecutor Pierre Sennes said three fires had been started at the site and authorities were treating the incident as a criminal act. He gave no other details. 

Police have launched an arson investigation after an inferno broke out at Nantes Cathedral this morning which took 104 firefighters to control

The blaze comes just over a year after a major fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, which destroyed its roof and main spire.

Local fire chief Laurent Ferlay told reporters 104 firemen were still at the site to ensure the blaze was completely under control.

The fire had broken out behind the grand organ, which was completely destroyed, he said. Stained glassed windows at the front of the cathedral were blown out.

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However, the damage was not as bad as initially feared.  

'It is a part of our history, a part of our heritage' Nantes Mayor Johanna Rolland said. 'We all have these images in mind, this story in our hearts, but at this stage the situation does not seem to be comparable to that of 1972.'

French Prime Minister Jean Castex and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin will be among officials who will go to Nantes Saturday afternoon in reaction to the blaze. 

Smoke has been seen billowing out of the 15th-century structure as emergency services desperately try to extinguish the inferno The blaze comes just over a year after a major fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, which destroyed its roof and main spire

'We are not in a Notre Dame de Paris scenario. The roof has not been touched,' Ferlay said.

It was not the first time fire has damaged the cathedral.

It was partly destroyed during World War Two in 1944 after Allied bombings. In 1972 a fire completely ravaged its roof. It was finally rebuilt 13 years later with a concrete structure replacing the ancient wooden roof.

'The fire of 1972 is in our minds, but at this stage the simulation is not comparable,' Nantes Mayor Johanna Rolland told reporters.

Onlookers watch in shock as the flames engulfed their beloved cathedral and raged on for hours this morning The interior of the cathedral has been wrecked by the fire and is now covered in debris after the inferno blazed on for hours this morning It is believed the fire was sparked by the cathedral's organ and police have now launched an arson probe

Cecile Renaud, who works in a bakery facing the cathedral and alerted the fire services early on Saturday, told BFM TV she had seen huge flames inside the building.

'It was a huge shock. It's extremely sad.'

In 2015, a fire that appeared to have been caused by renovation work destroyed most of the roof of another church in Nantes, the Saint Donatien Basilica. 

Cecile Renaud, who works in a bakery facing the cathedral and alerted the fire services early on Saturday, told BFM TV she had seen huge flames inside the building.

'It was a huge shock. It's extremely sad.' 

Firefighters are seen outside the cathedral trying to regain control of the blaze They used cranes to reach the heart of the fire, which seems to come from the top of the cathedral An eyewitness told the LCI 24-hour news network that he could see the fire from his home, not far from the cathedral. He said he was woken up by 'a very strange sound of bells' It is not the first time the cathedral has caught fire. In 1972 a fire completely ravaged its roof. It was finally rebuilt 13 years later.

An eyewitness told the LCI 24-hour news network that he could see the fire from his home, not far from the cathedral. He said he was woken up by 'a very strange sound of bells'.

'From what I can see, there is more and more smoke,' he said. 

It is not the first time the cathedral has caught fire. It was partly destroyed during World War Two in 1944 after Allied bombings. 

In 1972 a fire completely ravaged its roof. It was finally rebuilt 13 years later. 

A shard of the Notre Dame's spire plummets through the air as it collapsed earlier after the fire burned through its foundations in April last year Flames chewing through a turret at 6.45pmFlames chewing through a turret at 6.40pmThe turret collapsed at 7.00pmThe turret completely disappeared shortly before the spire fell at 7.15pm Drone footage from the French Interior Ministry showed the devastation to Notre Dame's centuries-old timber roof

The blaze at Notre Dame broke out last April just before 7pm local time in a roof area undergoing around £6m of renovations. 

The fire service said believed it was an accident, but investigations were continuing.

More than 400 firefighters battled the flames, which quickly spread along the roof structure, causing burning timbers to collapse onto the ceiling of the vault below. 

Some of that collapsed into the aisle however the cathedral's Twitter account declared the damage inside was less than feared, in a message ending 'Allelujah'.

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