Nantes cathedral fire: Arson suspected as French firefighters battle blaze

July 18, 2020

A large blaze inside one of France's historic cathedrals is suspected to be arson, officials said.

The fire at Nantes' 15th-Century gothic cathedral shattered stained glass windows and sent black smoke spewing from between its towers.

Around a hundred firefighters battled the blaze, with huge flames licking the inside of the cathedral's facade.

The fire is thought to have broken out early on Saturday morning, and French police said they were helping with the effort to quell the flames.

Video showed smoke coming out of the front of the structure, with the stained glass window, between the two huge towers, blown out.

Cecil Renaud, who works in a bakery opposite the cathedral of St Pierre and St Paul, told BFM TV: "It was a huge shock. It's extremely sad."

The blaze, which centred on "the great organ", was brought under control after several hours.

The roof is not thought to be affected.

Prosecutor Pierre Sennes told reporters three fires had been started at the site and authorities are treating the incident as a criminal act. French officials launched an arson inquiry.

The cathedral was partly destroyed during World War Two after Allied bombings in 1944.

And in 1972, fire ravaged the roof, which was rebuilt 13 years later.

"It is a part of our history, a part of our heritage," the city's mayor, Johanna Rolland, told reporters.

"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."

Prime Minister Jean Castex and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin were due to visit on Saturday afternoon

The fire comes just over a year after an enormous blaze destroyed the roof and main spire of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

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