tv CNN Newsroom With Brooke Baldwin CNN April 15, 2019 11:00am-12:00pm PDT
cathedral is one of the first examples of the use of those flying buttresses, and the statues and the stainless windows are renowned. and so i just think for people of faith, the horror is to see a beautiful building being destroyed, but people have moments of faith, people who have been married in there or had funerals celebrated there. it is a thriving, living church community. and so i think the horror is added to because it has this other worldly divine significance for people. and you know, as recently as i believe it was 1991, there was a restoration program, and that continued, and they continued cleaning it and in 2014 the lighting was updated. it's been a project over all these centuries to keep the beauty of that cathedral and try to restore it beauty when it started to in some way fade and
yet now, to see this is unbelievable. >> all right. father beck, if you can stand by for me, i want to reset what we're seeing here at the top of the hour. it's 8 p.m. in paris, and it's a beautiful, warm day in paris. and you are looking at the cathedral of notre dame, aflame, and at this point the damage is catastrophic. there is yellow smoke and gray smoke and in some parts black smoke pouring from the ceiling of this cathedral as a fire engulfs it and continues to burn unabated. you have the fire department that is responding. there are fire boats on the send, but at this point any efforts if they've been able to undertake them, certainly with the structural challenges of this iconic building have been completely un -- ineffective as we are watching this fire burn. you can see i want to bring in jim bitterman. we're getting an especially good
view of the scaffolding that you were talking about. so the church has been under construction, and at this point we don't know what the cause of the fire is, but this is an outstanding question if this may have something to do with this catastrophe we're seeing, jim. >> exactly. yes, and it was working going -- work going on. i must say over the last 40 years i've been in paris, there's been work going on at notre dame practically every year as they try to keep up with the ravages of age to keep the cathedral looking young. as father beck was saying this is a functioning church. my daughter was baptized in the cathedral of notre dame because we lived in the neighborhood in the early days. and it is just tragic to see this happening, especially right now during the high holiday season when so many events are going to be taking place, and like father beck also mentioned, the notre dame was known for its
wonderful organ which was just restored a few years ago. and what remains of that is something we'll have to see after thing get under control here, but they don't seem to be anywhere near that right now. in fact, it seems to be burning out of control. of course, it's a lot of old wooden beams and things like that. and just a few minutes ago, i'm not sure our listeners were watching, but the spire that sits at the center of notre dame collapsed and fell down. symbolically spelling the end of the roof and a real setback for the cathedral. >> so the spire has come down. that fell down. and that was -- i mean, we could see the skeleton essentially of the fire falling down and so now the consideration is also the inside. and how that is going to perpetuate the damage inside of the building. this is an old building, jim. this isn't -- it's not the kind of building that can be
retrofitted exactly adequately to modern standards. and there are fire boats there on the river. there are firefighters and fire trucks trying to make it to the scene. the challenges are too much to overcome for them. >> exactly. and it fits in an rv, as they call it, a wide open space all around the cathedral, and in one sense you could probably get fire trucks fairly close. getting to where the fire is, the fire appears to be in the center of the building. getting there would require a rather large, rather tall extension arm of the fire truck to get up that high and get anywhere near the flames. i suspect they're probably going at it from the inside as well. it's still just a very difficult place to get to, and i think we can see that the -- from the pictures coming out thats the something that the firemen are having access problems just getting to the fire, and getting
water on to the fire. it's something that looks like it's going to burn for some time here. >> all right. jim, stand by for me. i'm going to bring you back in in a moment. i want to bring in arash in paris. his office is minutes away from the cathedral. you have been watching the smoke. tell me what you are seeing. >> it's amazing. everybody is crying. it's very sad, because notre dame is the symbol of paris and the symbol of france. this church for us, for everybody, is a symbol of freedom, the freedom of fraternity. and we are so sad because nobody can do something. it's a very amazing thing we are seeing, everybody. >> and so as you watch, arash, you said it seems that nothing can be done here. you hear the sirens.
right? you're hearing the fire department respond and yet, they don't seem to be able at this point to intervene. >> i think that everybody said that's a problem of -- a technical problem. this is the origin of the fire, maybe. i don't know. but we are afraid, because you know, because of the times in france years ago, we are paranoid now. we don't know about the importance today now. right now it's to stop this fire, because this is a symbol of france and we have to do something immediately. the president of france macron stopped his speech tonight because this is a very most important situation for all the french people. >> that's right. the french president had an address, and he is delaying that in light of this which just shows you how significant the
damage to this national treasure is going to be. and so arash is paris stopped essentially? just talking about this and watching this, you must be able to see this from all over the city. >> everybody is outside right now because of this situation. because we don't know exactly what happened. the first -- coming to fire persons are coming immediately. so we'll do the best -- i have an eye on everybody hoping we stop this fire, because a lot of parts of the church would be maybe a -- we are sad to see that. very sad on the -- we are afraid. frightened, yes. >> what are you afraid of? >> afraid because this church is
a very important church for us. this is the most important of the symbol for the church of france. the sacred of this place could be very important. it's amazing this church could be on fire like that. because everybody is -- it's a surprise for us. i'm sorry. i don't find my words because we don't understand how it's possible that this church is coming to be on fire. >> sure. >> because it's a problem. it's impossible for us. impossible. >> and it is impossible as we watch along with you, arash. thank you so much for speaking with us from paris as you see this. what you are seeing right now, this is the cathedral of notre dame. it is on fire. these are pictures from momentimoments ago. the spire on the left of your screen has fallen. that's the side of the front facade your seeing on the right
side. it's a double tower for lack of a better architectural world, facade you can see from the front. and these flames have been coming really from the back roof of the cathedral of notre dame, and they have been moving closer to the facade. we have a description from one of our reporters there on the scene of cinders on fire, small pieces of wood, flammable material, actually, coming down on people there. her hair got singed as people started to move away, because this started as -- well, the first pictures we were seeing coming in you could see smoke coming from the cathedral of notre dame. then there were visible flames, and then it became fully engulfed through the roof. you can see there is scaffolding there. this is the area where the spire once stood. it has since crashed through the roof of the cathedral of notre dame, this iconic building. this icon of gothic
architecture, this very important building and structure to paris, to the catholic church. this is a church community. this is a historic building. and this is something of such national significance to people in france and to the parisians who are there aghast, many of them standing with their hands to their mouth as our melissa bell told us, in disbelief, really. we just heard from arash. he's watching. the idea of this happening is impossible. jim bitterman, i thought that was really something that encapsulated along with the president of france who had an address tonight, delaying that, this is not just a historic building. this is a national tragedy. the loss of -- and the damage certainly of this cathedral. at this point in time there's so many answers we don't have the cause of this fire. whether anyone has been injured
in this fire. jim? >> absolutely. president macron just tweeted a minute ago that this is an emotion for the entire nation. i'm thinking about all the catholics and the french people. i'm sad to see a part of us burning, and that goes back to what you were saying about what this cathedral means to the french people and what a symbol it is for the entire nation. we're hearing from the mayor of the fourth district of paris who says that the entire island where the cathedral sits has been closed off because they want to keep people away from it. >> jim, pause for me for just a minute. i just want to describe to you something we're seeing on the screen. we're actually seeing it appears to be several firefighters on the screen, and there is an attempt here to douse some of the flames with water. i have to tell you, it looks like in comparison to what we
are seeing, it is a very modest effort which just goes to the challenges of a building that is this high, that is this old. jim, if you can continue, we're going to continue to look at the live pictures where we're finally seeing authorities respond. >> the fire broke out in the center of the cathedral, appeared to. as a consequence, you have the cathedral walls -- yes, now we're seeing more movement around the outside of the fire as the fire get access to the rooftop area. but you're right. it's a little bit too little too late in temple terms of being able to contain the fire right away and limit the damage. i think one of the things that has to be in their minds and the minds of the fire officials is that right around the cathedral of notre dame are a number of other historic building including a hotel which is a major hospital that sits right next door to the cathedral. it's as well a fairly ancient
building, and i don't know that it's so close that the fire would leap over to it, but it's public the ashes from the fire could be swept by the winds off to some of the other buildings that are sitting around. it's the most historic part of paris. it's where paris was founded. they settled on the islands because they were good defensive positions against anybody who tried to attack paris. it's the most historic and oldest part of paris. the mayor says she's cutting off all the traffic there, and she, too, says that the problems, the firemen are having problems because their ladders aren't long enough to get up. they can't get long ladders in close. we understand too that from bmf, our sister network in paris, president macron is on his way
to the scene of the fire. >> all right. jim, if you can stand by, i want to take a moment here and watch this new video that we have coming in. it's showing the momentthe spire at the cathedral of notre dame collapsed. let's listen. glou you can hear tourists looking on with horror. i want to go to our correspondent melissa bell who is live for us there on the scene. melissa, give us the latest. >> reporter: well, here just beyond notre dame this is about as close as we can get at this stage. progressively, they've been pushing people further and further back. the crowds here are pretty big.
what the policemen and women and the fire services are saying is that it's just getting too dangerous to be any closer to the structure itself. and what we saw about 15 minutes ago were not just the soot that had been falling from the sky but bits of cinder that were burning our hair, getting into people's eyes and hurting people. that's why they've been pushed back more. it's a sense of astonishment, shock and horror that's brought the crowds out. parisians and tourists alike to watch the structure go up in flames, and as you can perhaps see, and this is really has close as we can get, this is as close as we are allowed to get. you can see perhaps the water from the fire engine hoses is now reaching up toward the top of the structure. that was not the case a short wile ago. getting to the top of the flames. it's what we've been talking about earlier on. that fire is so high. the structure is so high. that was always going to be the difficulty as they sought to get
the flames under control. a fire that broke out violently and quickly. we don't know why or what caused it. we don't know how much damage it's done inside. just from watching the structure burn over the course of the last hour or so, the damage we're thinking will be substantial. the roof appears to have burned entirely. we watched earlier and you could hear the crowds shout out in horror as the spire went up in smoke and as part of the structure fell. so people here really living this fire as they watch it. this is an extraordinary structure. very historic one. one that people come from all over the world to see up close. visiting both its outside, the famous facade you can see just behind me, but also the insides which we're thinking at this stage, and there's been no confirmation of the damage caused, but will clearly have suffered a great deal of harm. even as i speak, there's fire engines surrounding the
structure. the water cannons are being directed toward the very top of the roof, and now reaching the flames, but still, those flames continue to burn here in paris. >> so are you seeing any -- we've seen -- from our vantage point, from one of the cameras, we were able to see that actually there were some firefighters who had gotten up considerably high on the outside of one of the walls. and they were -- there was -- they were pouring some water on to the fire, but it seemed like a -- i would say a modest effort when you're looking at sort of what they could offer at least from that position they were in to how big the flames were. we are seeing white smoke. you were describing earlier you saw yellow smoke. you saw black smoke. here we're seeing another in your live picture. i believe that's a water cannon coming from a ladder, i believe. and that seems to be making -- it's hard to see the progress, but that's a carable amount of
water. we're seeing more white smoke. are you seeing that? >> that's right. the smoke appears to be tamping down. it's not as thick as it was even about 20 minutes ago. it's not as dark or yellow as it was in the beginning and also the flames which continue to consume that rooftop. you can see them perhaps from our shot here. they continue to burn that roof of notre dame. but clearly, that water that is now from the hoses making it way to the fire is having some effect. you can see it by the amount of smoke billowing out. it has changed color. there isn't as much of it. the cinders falling from the sky falling a few moments ago onto our hair have stopped falling. some degree of control is being brought to this fire. but still, this is likely to go on for some time. it was a very large fire at its height. that hire rooftop of notre dame
for a while was consumed by flames that went up as high as the two towers of that facade, that iconic facade. that's how high those flames were only about 20 minutes ago. some progress is being made. this is a very violent fire that raged suddenly and took over a very large part of notre dame cathedral. it will take some time to put it out entirely. >> so you were on the front side of the cathedral of notre dame. you are seeing through the facade that view. we are seeing the exact opposite view in the pictures that we're showing on the air, melissa. we're looking from the back of the cathedral and seeing some efforts of firefighters. we're still seeing even as there is some white smoke and even as some of the flames have been beat back, we're still seeing flames that have to be at least 30 or 40 fetal -- tall.
there's scaffolding under some of the flames we're seeing. as you're looking around, as the crowds around you have been pushed back and people are watching and they -- you've described them. they've had their hands to their mouth. tell us what you've seen. >> reporter: well, we've seen -- i've seen over the course of the last hour, and it's pretty chaotic here. they are continually trying to push the people back. it's gotten so big. so many people are trying to watch to get a view on what is happening. the policemen and women trying to push people back to protect them from the flames and the cinders. police cars all around trying to push back what are now substantial crowds but yes, i've seen people crying. i've seen people holding themselves. this was such a shocking sight, and we don't know for the time being whether there have been any casualties, if there were people inside at the time when it broke out. how quickly the evacuation happened. of these facts, we know nothing for now. but perhaps you can see from the
shot that we now have at the front here that the structure itself, so much of that roof has now vanished with just bits of scaffolding remaining around the building. those flames appear to be slightly smaller than they were just a quarter of an hour or so ago. some progress is being made, but scenes of chaos here in paris. it took everyone so much by surprise. security services, fire services, and as they struggle to get through the afternoon traffic, because this happened just after rush hour, it would have been difficult for those fire engines to get there in time. to get there and make any progress at all, that appears to be happening. we can see the jets of water making their way up there on to the roof and putting out some of their flames, bringing the beginning of the fire under control, but clearly a sense of shock here in paris as parisians have watched one of their most
iconic cathedrals go up in flames. >> it is horrific, as you describe. if you could stand by for us, we'll be right back with you. i want to bring in patrick gayly on the scene. you're on the faphone with us. tell us where are you in relation to the facade of the church? are you near the rear or front of the church and tell us what you're seeing? >> i've been evacuated across the river. i'm looking at the rear of the two towers. i can see that the roof has been more or less completely burned away. a little more just collapsed. and in fact, i was on the scene when the spire came down. quite traumatic stuff. >> what was the reaction of that? that seemed to be a moment for parisians watching. they were in disbelief. th >> i think the word is
disbelief. there's people crying. people holding their mouths, walking around in a state of shock and just mourning, really. it's a very surreal scene. >> the smoke looks acrid from what we've seen. dense, yellow smoke. what does it smell like there? >> yeah. as i can see, the sunsetting in the background now, the smoke has moved to blot out the sun, in fact. you can hear the burning and you can smell it even though i'm probably about 100 meters now across the river. >> and so what is -- tell us -- there's a lot of unanswered questions at this point in time. we don't know what caused this. we do not know if there was any personal damage. we do not know if people were inside the church, but presumably there could have been on a day like this, many people inside the church touring it. this is one of the biggest
tourist attractions in paris. >> yeah. as to whether there were people inside, i don't know. but you're right. it is an icon of paris. it's one of the top three, i think, visited landmarks in the world. and i mean, obviously it's extremely popular with visitors, and it's -- it's just unbelievable that this has happened. i can see from where i'm stood, the scaffolding that was erected on the roof and around the spire, and i know that they were in the process of removing and cleaning some of the statues that were on the roof. but that whole structure apart from the scaffolding has now disappeared. >> it's incredible as we watch, and just horrific. we've also heard president macron had an address he's delaying. can you tell us about that and maybe the decision to delay? that speaks to just how significant this fire at the cathedral of notre dame is.
>> again, i'm just on the scene now. i'm here more in capacity as a bystander rather than a political journalist, but certainly it gives you an idea of the emblematic status this cathedral has for the french. >> all right. patrick, thank you. we appreciate you being with us. i want to bring in jim bitterman who has lived in paris for many, many years. it does appear at this point in time, but it speaks to how much damage and how big of a fire this is, that even as you can see on scene the water, at least one water cannon that we're seeing we did see another fire hose that a crew had. that's what we can see from our vantage point looking from the rear of the cathedral. they appear to be making progress. there are still flames that are almost as tall as the facade of this building. we're talking 30, 40 feet at least. >> yes. and i think you can see the roof is now entirely gone. the roof over the center of the
cathedral is completely gone. just to back up with patrick was saying there. in fact, about 12 million people seek out notre dame each other, 12 million tourists, so it's something that is just indescribable in terms of the importance it plays in this nation, and not only is the president now heading for the scene, but also the prime minister is going to head out. he is going to be there at the scene soon, and a spokesman for the archdiocese here said it's a building of our faith and the nation is burning. so sad to see it. i think it's for anyone that's catholic, it's such a symbol, and to see it just go up in flames like this and so quickly, one of the things that i'm sure is going to be investigated right away is why this fire spread so quickly.
it was -- there was construction going on. it's hard to imagine something the construction workers were doing could have made it spread so quickly. we're seeing water being sprayed on to the cathedral. it's difficult for the fire help to gain access. they're having a hard time getting their hoses in proximity. you can see the fire hoses and the spray of the fire hoses barely makes it to the flames. i think the damage is going to be considerable. this is one of the things that should be said is that the churches in france fall under the care of the state. because of what happened during the revolution. anything that's done to build the cathedral is in the hand of the states. this is something that will be looked at, the amount and the time it's going to take to rebuild it. there's been a major reconstruction program that just
ended in 2000 with the reconstruction of the cathedral and the stone masons were working in the back. probably a decade or so, restoring the stonework and cleaning up the stonework. and there was a great celebration and mass when the restoration was completed. and of course the organ was just refurbished. i'm sure that's been complete damaged if not completely destroyed by what we're seeing here this afternoon. >> i want to reset for our viewers watching. jim, stay with me. this is the cathedral, the notre dame cathedral in the heart of paris, and as rush hour was coming to an end, flames erupting from the roof of the cathedral. we have been witnessing this as the spire from the cathedral actually plunged through the roof almost entirely destroyed. the roof of the cathedral of
notre dame. there are fire crews on scene. you can see a water cannon. at this point their efforts are mismatched when it comes to just how pronounced this fire is. you can see the flames that you are seeing there still in these live pictures even with fire crews on the scene now for some time have been going 30, 40 feet in the air. our special coverage is going to continue with chris cuomo. >> this is cnn special live coverage of the breaking news out of paris. it is what you see. we are watching history being destroyed in realtime. this is not about damage. this is about the destruction of one of our oldest and best-known places of worship on the planet. notre dame. known for its catholic heritage. this has been around since the 1 100s. this place is not designed to take on fire like this, let
alone when there is this ring of kindling essentially around it in the form of that scaffolding. it is mostly wood and metal that has a low cook point itself. this is the worst of situations except for one facet. we do not know that anybody was inside the church at this time. that is developing information. we do not know it is a human tragedy, but the tragedy alone is so great in this moment. the famous spire that is one of the easiest ways to identify notre dame is gone. is that because it was weakened just by the fire? had they hallowed out some of it as part of the restoration efforts? it's not uncommon for work like this to go on at this cathedral. you saw it fall on the left of your screen. we don't know about anybody inside. one of the points of cure rosio is why are there no helicopters
dropping water? we have experts in the works to help us u this situation. melissa bell live on scene. thank you for the continuing kovrnl. what have you gotten to understand about efforts to fight back against this inferno? >> we've been watching them get underway slowly over the course of the evening. this was a fire that took hold so quickly. the first images we saw are on social media. very quickly the crowds gathers out here and are still surrounding me as we speak. we are being pushed back because of the cinders falling from the sky. that fire, the flames so high at one point, as high as the towers on the famous iconic facade. as you say, this is one of the most visited buildings in the world. 13 to 14 million visit a year. it's famous for the construction.
the building began in the 12th century. ended in the 14th. it's a spectacular work of art. it's at the heart of french culture and civilization also. tonight huge crowds still in a sense of stock. we've seen people, witnessed people cry, holding each other even as they were pushed back by the security services. the emergency services trying to get themselves around the building as quickly as they could. for a while that fire raged as the flames seemed to grow higher and higher and people looked on aghast. early stages. we know very little about why or the damage inside, and we know nothing about whether there were any human casualties at all. >> right. the last part is obviously most important. things can be rebuilt. i'll qualify that statement in a moment. we're trying to get people on the phone inside to let us know if any others were there. there's no official word. let's be honest about the situation. this is an overwhelming
catastrophe for the municipality of paris. it happened at a tough time. they're six hours ahead. it's 8:30. this is about rush hour. it's a tight city. the area where notre dame is is not easy to travel around in. there's a ton of foot traffic. this place isn't just about catholics. it's about history and culture and visiting some of the most beautiful artwork and some of the most significant aspects of our collective history. 13 million people a year have gone there. today there would have been tours. we don't know about anybody being hurt or huworse. it is raging on control. this is stone on the outside, hallow on the inside. i spoke to two first responders on my way over here to the office running across town. this is the worst of all worlds. it's all wood on the inside. it's in a state of disrepair. there's a lot of equipment on the inside, and on the outside it's a shell that can hold in the heat. this is very, very difficult.
now, to get to what was going on inside notre dame, we have james janiga from chicago. like i said, people come from all over the world to go and see this. he was there as the fire started. james, can you hear me? >> can i hear you, chris. if you can hear me. >> all right. thank god you're okay. you and your family, i hope that goes for. what can you tell us about what you saw? >> well, my wife and i had brought our children for their first visit to paris, and had gotten into town hours before visiting the notre dame cathedral. we went to visit as it was closing for the day. so we were in the very front of the church, walked outside, and around the north side of the church, of course the outside of the cathedral, the historic cathedral is coated in scaffolding for some of the work that is being done around it. and so after walking around the outside of the cathedral, we'd gone a couple blocks across.
we puturned around and looked bk and gasped and saw the fire. we watched as the rest of the paris watched in silent shock as these flames just grew and spread across the roof, and the spire that is so familiar to all of us who have spent any time in paris. >> yeah. james, let me ask you something. >> it was terrible. >> it's a very congested area. your family was doing the tour. that's the loop people walk when they're visiting that area. millions of people just like you do it all the time. do you get any indication about what may have started this at all? >> no. no. chris, i really couldn't say anything like that for certain. there was a lot of scaffolding up around the building. my assumptions lead in that direction, but i don't know. >> and james, you saw everybody get out, everybody that was with
your tour group? you have no reason to believe that people were in there? >> we weren't with the tour group. we saw a lot of people exiting because we assumed it was the end of the day, and so we sort of left with them before getting very far in ourselves. so -- >> james -- >> what we saw was people on bridges looking in shock at this thing. >> gotcha. gotcha. video images. this is a huge part of parisian society, of world society. we're not used to seeing an historic icon, something of so much significance in this world no matter what your belief system, literally being destroyed before our eyes. james, thank god you and your wife are okay. you didn't see anybody else getting hurt. let's take that as progress. thank you. and let's head back to melissa bell. melissa, you understand some of the protocalls about fighting fires in paris better than i do. no helicopters. is that something about capability at this point or is
that a function of choice at this point? >> reporter: in the very beginning as this tragedy was beginning to unfold. when i got to the scene there was one circling above. that was even before the fire engines had managed to get their water cannons pointed toward the flames. beyond that single helicopter we saw circling above notre dame -- this is a cathedral situated on an island in the heart of historic paris. at rush hour, it would have been difficult for the fire engines to get to. some fire services making their way on boats. it took some time for the water to make its way to the top of the flames. part of the difficulty was how high they were. we watched them -- the crowds all around me watched them in horror, many crying as they did, as the flames got as high as those two towers on the facade
of the cathedral. we heard the screams of the people as they witnessed that spire collapse under the weight of those flames. but now those flames very much under control. the huge plumes of dark smoke, the cinders falling on us earlier have now largely gone away and the flames while still burning inside appear to have been brought under control, at least have disappeared from our view inside the structure. >> all right. so melissa, i'm going to muster up a map. when i get it, i'll come back to you so you can help people understand the challenges of dealing with this. one word of caution. melissa the right from an optic perspective, you don't see the billowing smoke and flames out of the top. but we're going to have an expert in a second to help you understand this better. that doesn't necessarily mean the worst is over. this could be a staged fire. it could be contained on different levels. that could mean good or bad things about what is beneath it. we'll take that on in a second. just to understand what they're dealing with, put that map back up. notre dame is in a very special
place within paris. it is on an island. it's almost like the way manhattan is situated in the state of new york. to get to it you're going across small bridges. a lot of foot traffic and auto traffic. it is a tough time to get around. yes, there are boats. that's the river running through there. not enough to shoot water that distance to make a difference with that kind of fire. they are up against it. it's a special spot. it's beautiful to visit. the cathedral was put there for a reason. you can google it and see the historic significance, but it's a big challenge for first responders. on that note, let's bring in jim bullock, a retired fire chief. chief, thank you for joining us on such short notice. jim, can you hear me? >> yes. i can. >> jim, help us understand what the challenge is in fighting a fire like this. >> well, the initial problem is
the fact that it was such a historic cathedral. they wanted to be careful at first. when the fire started getting out of control, they have to -- this fire now, they have to really back out, and they have to fight this fire from the exterior. and worry about the walls collapsing. already the roof and the ceiling appears to be collapsed. so now they're worried about the walls, and they're using ladder pipes, ladders with streams on it, devices that could shoot up high, and they're trying to get water on to the fire. but they can't really risk their man power by bringing people inside the cathedral anymore. it's beyond that point. they have to -- that wall is going to -- it's subject to collapse. and it could be internal collapse or external back on to the street. >> both of those would be so catastrophic. forget about the history.
i mean, obviously that's something that we're going to pay the price and we're going to lose. it's just about a matter of degree of destruction right now. but the human cost if those walls go the wrong way, the cathedral is situated -- it's got room around it, but not that much. i know they've moved people back. that could be a problem if they fall externally. one of your guys told me hallow on the inside, stone on the outside. it's like a oven and a fire, everything about a church, something about that era of building, there's little to do to suppress the flames. they were worried this was fire eating its way up and that stuff that is below what you see is the flame point is gone. does that have to be true? >> it pretty much is the way you just described. the fire has that whole area of the church called the nay, which is just full of air that feeds the fire. the air, the fire -- the air for
the fire is being sucked into the building and it's feeding the fire. the fire needs air and has plenty of air. and already with the roof collapse, now the only part of holding up the walls, are just the other walls. it's not the roof. the roof is a part of the structure that keeps the walls together. >> is stone a benefit? >> right now they can't get -- it's hard to get the water on the seed of the fire. you can't fight it from the interior anymore. it's too danger for the firefighters. everybody -- all the civilian people are backed out, but the firefighters, it's getting dangerous. >> all right. i appreciate it. obviously, chief, we've been looking to see about helicopters an using them. there was some discussion about whether or not there's enough visibility. it's a dense building area. there may be too much heat. the thermals might work against the helicopters. we haven't seen them at play here. i'll come back to you as i learn more information so we can get
perspective. thank you, chief. i appreciate it on short notice. >> thank you. jim bitterman, you've been a teach tore me about the politics and life in paris for years now. what do you know about what the efforts are and the capabilities and why we haven't seen the helicopters that one might imagine would be used in this type of situation? >> reporter: well, i don't think they've got them in the area, chris. frankly, they use helicopters in the south with forest fires. i'm not sure there are any around the area and generally speaking helicopters and any planes are forbidden to fly over central paris. so, in fact, they do occasionally see helicopters on rescue missions but they don't seem to be equipped with any kind of fire fighting equipment, the kind of thing you'd need to fight something like this. as well, i mean, one could raise the question about the number of fire boats that were available.
it is -- the cathedral is right next to the river. and in fact, there's plenty of passageway for boats to get in. they did get there. the fire spread so quickly. it was stunning to see this take place this afternoon. and how fast it spread. and like the chief was explaining there, the center of the building, there's nothing in it. there's a big empty cathedral with a huge ceiling. more than 100 feet tall. and as a consequence, with the roof catching fire like that, it's very difficult to access the areas where the fire took place. it's tragic for me personally. i lived right across the street from notre dame. and in fact, my daughter was baptized there. it's just tragic to see this happening and the head of unesco a couple minutes ago said this in a tweet. deep emotion in front of fire. faced with the fire.
it's a worldwide heritage site since 1991. and unesco stands with france to saver and restore this heritage. so a lot of people coming in to play this afternoon. expressing sympathy and sadness. >> as word spreads around the world, hearts are going to break. this place means so much to so many people all over the world regardless of your faith or any denomination. one point of information, and then we need to make the point jim is making about the significance. this is not just another place on fire. it's not another church on fire. this is a very big loss to the world and it does look like a loss at this point. now, looking at a-and-a-ha navi app, jim is right about where the church is. it's not an easy shot for fire boats. i was cross referencing it with the capacity of them to get about 100 yards of big water. it's going to be diffuse at the end. they can't get that close.
they can't get next to it the way they would want to to fight with water. as you can see, you can get close, but that's not as quick a shot as you're going to think to be dealing with something like this. it's not an easy opportunity for changing the calculus here. just to keep our expectations in check. now, jim mentioned this. this is the most important week after the year for christians. this is easter week, the three-day celebration of what winds up culminating easter sunday. not only were you going to have a lot of catholics going there, but it's just a time of year of reflection and significance and to be losing one of the main symbols of christianity, yes, the people are the church. churches aren't places. they're the people. if you understand the religion, that's true, but this hurts and it's going to matter to people all around the world, especially this moment.
factuality and metaphorically, watch the video of the spire. one of the most recognizable architectural things in the world collapsing because of the heat and maybe some of the work that's going on restoring the church may have been working on that structure. it may have been weakened at this time. but watch the video. >> just so you can see, and you know, you hear there's some shock with people, but in truth, it is shock, and it's hard to process. this is just a very rare kind of occurrence. we have clarissa ward, jim bitterman in paris. clarissa is with me here in new york. unfortunately people in new york city especially know what it is like to see something that is iconic that represents you as a
people that is a touch stone for your collective significance go down in flames. and there is going to be somewhat of that emotion. thank god we don't know any reason to believe we have anything like the human loss that we suffered here. but to watch this is going to reverberate all around the world. >> and it's extraordinary to watch those images, chris. as you say, we don't know yet if anyone was killed. it doesn't appear that this was a large human kacatastrophe at this stage. and yet the grief and shock that people watch seeing this building, seeing 700 years of history, more than 700 years of history, go up in smoke is very palpable. this wasn't, as you say, just any ordinary cathedral. this was one of the most spectacular examples of french gothic architecture. it was a site that was visited by 12 million people every year. and which of us americans have have been fortunate enough to travel to paris -- >> one of the first stops. >> it's one of the first stops.
and that awesome feeling of walking into that church and you heard the fire chief talk about how much air there is in there. the sense of spaciousness. it's a truly sacred, beautiful unique place. so i think people across the world watching these images, watching that spire crumble, are feeling gripped by a shock and horror, and, of course, asking the question how did this happen? what went wrong? this is what investigators are looking at now. we know paris prosecutors' office is launching an investigation. >> what's yourt sense about this? >> pro forma. too early to tell if it's related to the venn ratirenovat. way too early. they have to issue an immediate statement and show they're exploring every possible avenue because as you mentioned the timing is so critical here. this is easter week. sunday was palm sunday. good friday coming.
millions of people across the world will be going to churches. many will be going to visit the beautiful notre dame. of course now that will no longer be possible. >> and you have the protests going on there right now. some call them the yellow jacket. they wear yellow identifying vests. that's about government spending. there's no reason to believe that notre dame would be a target of that, and we haven't seen anything like that kind of violence or destructiveness by the protesters. that's something that should be to the side right now. >> that's something i wouldn't think that would be one of their first lanes of inquiry, because notre dame is one of the sites that it doesn't matter if you're catholic, if you're protestant or jewish or muslim, if you're no religion or an atheist, if you're french, not even. it's one of the sites i think that really galvanizes people across the world because it is so beautiful, because it is unique, because it is steeped in history, victor hugo wrote his
famous novel the hunch back of notre dame, all inspired by the incredible beautiful and history of this extraordinary structure. >> can't be released, either. so much of what is inside there is so old. anybody who knows the history of this place, there's always some kind of -- i don't know how often i've seen it without any scaffolding around it. i don't like seeing the scaffolding in this kind of scenario. that's like a ring of kindling around it. you're looking at earlier pictures on the left. or, i'm sorry, on your right. obviously passage of time. it's darker now. what does that mean? well, this has been going on for hours. but also, remember, flames are going to be exaggerated in significance at night. so remember that in terms of processing what you see. what is unfortunate and that we heard from first responders on the way over here is that's a lot of wood, and low flash point metal on the outside, and when
you're doing renovations, even if you've done it on just a home, things are vulnerable. things can go wrong. and at this point that's what this looks like. although investigators are looking into it. and as clarissa was telling you and you probably know already, this is a meeting point for people. 12 million, 13 million people a year. christopher brennan an american in paris watching this unfold for the pass several hours now. can you hear me, chris? >> reporter: i can, chris. >> so what is it like on the ground? how are people processing this there in paris? >> reporter: i mean, as i approach -- i first kind of saw images of the fire on twitter, and then i saw the smoke in the sky, i was nearby on the boulevard, and i saw the smoke. very yellow. very dark. coming across the city going into the streets nearby. as i approached it i saw the fire itself. it was huge at that point with a plume of smoke that extended
across the cathedral. it's much less now. as i approached the cathedral, you could see people were mostly in shock, mostly kind of in awe, not understanding what's happening, taking pictures of it thinking that this is something unusual, of course, but now it's really settled in and now when you look away from the cathedral, you see people in tears. >> can you tell from where you are, chris, how much of the church of the cathedral seems to be affected? >> it's been in the back of the church. it extends from the west to the east. that's been where the fire has been. starting when i saw it on the southern side but then moving more central as time has gone along. the firefighters are attacking it from the southern side. there are embers going. i imagine they're as well behind the few main towers i can't see past. the two main towers appear to not be affected at this point.
neither does the rose window at the front of the cathedral. that's perhaps the most famous rose window in the world. the back of the church appears to be damaged. >> the rose window -- first, thank you so much, chris -- how do you know -- chris -- not a great correction. chris, if you can still hear me, can you? >> reporter: yes. >> how do you know so much about the cathedral? >> reporter: yes. yes, chris? >> how do you know so much about the cathedral? >> reporter: i mean, i'm someone who passed -- i'm someone who lives and passes every day, but my knowledge of the cathedral probably comes from my parents who spoke about it as one of the most ak tech churl -- it's our cultural heritage. this is also the world's cultural heritage. and everyone will miss it. >> you are right about that.
thank god you're safe. i'm sorry that i had to meet you through this tragedy. but thank you for helping us understand it better. it's interesting that he points out the rose window. and he is right. it is one of the signature features of this church. rose not because of the color but because of the configuration. and it's something that you see with stain glass windows obviously in churches. this one was known as one of the most extraordinary. you can see it in the front of the church, the glow of fire light coming through it. hopefully it isn't affect bid this. hopefully they can keep enough of this structure so it can be rebuilt in a way where as little as possible is lost in terms of its architecture. the significance will live on as long as it stands. let's get to melissa bell. we're hearing reports, melissa is on the street by notre dame, that the flames seem to be abating. does that seem to be the point from your perspective?
>> reporter: well, they're not as high, and they did reach when i first got here the very top of the towers on the famous facade you were just talking about a moment ago. just behind it you could see them reach as high as that. they've now been brought under control. from here we can still see the flames at the top of that roof still consuming that roof across the main body of the church. the crowds here remain substantial as you can see. night has fallen. they're singing hymns around me. a great deal of emotion here tonight as people, parisians and tourists continue to watch notre dame burn. the french president has tweeted in the last few minutes that this is a tragedy that brings a great deal of emotion, not just to catholics but also to the french. i'm joined by a man who lives in paris and came down like so many people to watch this tragedy unfold. you were watching people earlier on praying as they watched the cathedral burn. >> i think it's horrible and
shocking to see such a beautiful and important monument burn, and for the people that come here to just look at it for the tourists, but most importantly for the catholics and the christians that come there to pray every day, and also just for the beauty of it, and the art inside. yeah. i think it's horrible, and there's -- i see people crying. i see a lot of emotions, and i'm shocked myself. >> reporter: it is those emotions, chris, that we've been seeing over the course of the evening. people praying and crying and holding each other. this even as the cinders were falling onto their heads earlier. there is a sense of watching history going up in smoke, and so many people here have spent their evenings, the evening watching. you can see perhaps behind me. you can hear the crowd. this has been happening throughout the evening. whenever a new part catches
fire, you can hear the emotion of the crowd. there's what happened. you can see the left hand tower as you look at the front, as you look that famous facade, now burning. it hadn't caught fire thus far as you were saying a moment ago, chris, the very famous front, the facade of noter dame, and it's iconic towers appear to have been spared but the flames still raging, clearly not under control yet, have now apparently reached that front tower. >> melissa, i want to talk to you about this. one of the experts was saying to me don't get excited or have false optimism about the falling of the flames. it can mean a couple things. it could mean it's run out of fuel in that area. that means everything is gone, and that it could be moving. and that it sometimes -- and in this type of configuration, stone sealing in a largely hallow cavity, that fire tends to move that way, and now we see and once again, the scaffolding
is going to be in -- an attraction to the flames. the pillars in front, what does that mean to you as someone who calls the city home and understands it to see the fire moving into the most vulnerable part? >> reporter: well, when i first got to the scene as so many people first seeing the flames for real as they were getting higher and higher and for a while they seemed to burn out of control with very little in the way of help reaching them with any efforts to bring them under control. not yet managing to make it to the structure. the first thing anyone who lives here could think when they first got in front of it was oh, my goodness. this is unbelievable. people burst into tears as they saw it, because as you say, it means so much to paris. it means so much to france. it means so much not only to the catholics of the world but as you were saying a while ago,
this is part of the history of humanity and one of the most iconic buildings in the world. as the flames earlier rose that high to the very top of those towers, it was difficult to imagine that they would be able to bring them you should control at all. and we were witnessing the structure collapsing entirely. as you say, of course, we watch those high flames come under control. of course, the -- >> melissa -- >> reporter: the fire inside the main structure will have burned so fiercely that as you can see, while the size of the flames has come down, the strength of the fire is undiminished. move to p structure that were untouched. >> the concern is we heard from the fire chief before in new york city, that will be okay if it's just about the insides being burned up because they're stone. but if the walls collapse, god forbid, if they can't sustain their integrity, then the