Rouen: Fire breaks out in spire of famous French cathedral

A fire has broken out in the spire of France's famous Rouen Cathedral in Normandy.

Images posted on social media showed flames spewing from a scaffolding canopy near the top of the building - which is renowned due to its three towers spanning hundreds of years of architecture.

The gothic cathedral is widely known as it was painted multiple times by French impressionist painter Claude Monet in the 19th century.

"A fire has started on the spire of Rouen Cathedral. Origin unknown at this stage. All public resources are mobilised," wrote the city's mayor Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol on X.

The blaze started in a section where building works were taking place, regional officials said.

The cathedral was evacuated and emergency services are on site.

Residents were told to avoid the area and a security cordon was put up around the building.

Television images on BFM TV showed a dark plume of smoke rising from the spire and people in the streets below looking up in horror.

Many were reminded of the fire that destroyed the roof of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris in 2019 - which is only due to be repaired this winter after a multimillion euro restoration project.

It reported 40 fire engines and 70 firefighters were at the scene - and public transport in the area had been disrupted.

The French network also quoted Dominique Lebrun, the Archbishop of Rouen, as saying the workers who raised the alarm when the fire broke out "inhaled a little smoke" but are "safe".

Fire bosses said about 90 minutes after the blaze was first seen that the source had been located and firefighters were working to eliminate any remaining "hot spots".

The spire - made of cast iron and 151 metres high - is one of the tallest in Europe and the highest in France.

The cathedral dates back to the 12th century and is one of the most visited sites in Rouen. It was the tallest building in the world until 1880.

It is where the dukes of Normandy were traditionally crowned - and inside is a tomb containing the heart of Richard I - also known as Richard the Lionheart - who was King of England from 1189 until his death in 1199.

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The recent building works at the cathedral were part of an estimated €1.33m (£1.12m) project, according to French newspaper Le Monde.

It had been surrounded by scaffolding and a white canopy for several weeks.

There were no reports of any casualties and officials said the extent of the damage was unclear.