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Notre Dame saved from total destruction as fire rages on

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By David K. Li and Doha Madani

Hours after a massive fire engulfed the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday, a city official said the structure of the building had been saved.

The fire caused the cathedral’s roof to collapse, destroyed a spire and spread to one of the building’s two rectangular towers. The sight brought many onlookers to tears.

Those living near Notre Dame were evacuated as a precaution, the mayor’s office said. The Paris prosecutors’ office ruled out arson and possible terror-related motives, and said it was treating the fire as an accident, The Associated Press reported.

French President Emmanuel Macron thanked the hundreds of firefighters who showed “extreme courage and professionalism” to keep the cathedral from complete destruction during a news conference Monday night.

Macron said French citizens must push through their sadness about the Notre Dame fire and create hope through their pride in the cathedral and the certainty that it will be rebuilt.

“So with pride I tell you tonight that we will rebuild this cathedral, all together,” Macron said. “It’s part of the fate, the destiny of France, and our common project over the coming years. And I am committed to it.”

Macron said a national fundraising campaign to restore Notre Dame would be launched Tuesday, and he called on the world’s “greatest talents” to help.

“I’m devastated,” said Elizabeth Caille, 58, who lives in the neighborhood. “It’s a symbol of Paris. It’s a symbol of Christianity. It’s a whole world that is collapsing.”

Flames could be seen near scaffolding — high at the top of the famous church where $6.8 million in renovations were being completed — and billowing smoke was seen from miles away in the French capital.

Smoke inside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday.Philippe Wojazer / Pool via AP

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that thanks to those responding to the fire, many of the precious artifacts inside the cathedral, including a relic believed to be worn by Jesus Christ which was stored in the collapsed spire, had been saved.

“The crown of thorns, the tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place,” Hidalgo said in French on Twitter.

France’s Minister of Culture Franck Riester posted photos of French authorities loading art and other historic pieces into a truck social media.

“They are gradually being put into safety,” Riester said.

Michel Picaud, from the Friends of Notre Dame organization responsible for the renovation efforts, told NBC News that, to his knowledge, the church’s organ and stained glass windows were not damaged.

“The entire roof is fully destroyed,” Picaud said. “The fire started up near the roof top while another fire started in the north bell tower.”

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