Our Notre-Dame de Paris burning! My Paris! Am heartbroken.

Horrified to watch the huge blaze engulfing and devastating Notre Dame Cathedral. The images are terrible, unbearable.

The flames raging through the main spire and its roof. Both then collapsing. Intense emotion and powerlessness at seeing this awe-inspiringly beautiful 850-year-old cathedral ravaged by fire.

It is not possible to think of Paris without thinking of Notre Dame. It is geographically at the heart of Paris, as it is kilometre zero.


It is loved by Parisians, by French people, indeed people all around the world.

It has withstood many centuries and wars. Its bells rang out calling all Parisians to celebrate the end of World War II. It is not only the most important for the Catholic Church in France; it is also the heart of one of Europe's greatest and oldest cities.

It is a national tragedy for France. So one of the worst things was to sit helplessly by, unable to do anything; to watch those flames burning relentlessly, fanned by a cruel April wind and not be able to do anything about it at all.

I say "my" Paris. And, here, I am not ashamed of the word "my" because like millions of people all over the world, it is "my" Paris. Everyone has their own special memory.

The cause of the fire is not clear and there will be questions about the response by firefighters. Were they under-equipped? That will be for the investigation to determine.

President Emmanuel Macron quite rightly cancelled his much-awaited TV address to the nation, in which he was due to set out the "first concrete measures" his Government was going to take after three months of debates that were held around the country – his response to try to allay Yellow Vest anger.

His tweet was measured: "Notre Dame of Paris engulfed by flames. The emotion of the entire nation. Our thoughts go to all Catholics and to all French people. Like all our compatriots, I am sad this evening to see this part of us burning."

I, too, am sad to see this part of us burn. We must restore as much as we can and better treasure the cultural heritage we have.

- Bénédicte Paviot is UK Correspondent for France 24 and President of the Foreign Press Association in London