Fire at France's Rouen cathedral extinguished

Construction on Rouen's cathedral was begun in the 12th Century (Sameer Al-DOUMY)
Construction on Rouen's cathedral was begun in the 12th Century (Sameer Al-DOUMY)

The fire that broke out Thursday in the spire of the cathedral in the northern French city Rouen has been extinguished, local fire services said, with no major damage reported.

A section of plastic sheeting covering renovation work 120 metres (400 feet) up the cathedral's spire caught fire, though officials have not said how the blaze started.

Workers at the site first attempted to put out the fire and then alerted the departmental fire service, who raised the alarm around midday (1000 GMT). Some 40 vehicles and 70 firefighters responded to the scene.

The city's mayor shared a photo of a column of smoke rising from the Gothic landmark.

The fire was quickly brought "under control", said local fire chief Stephane Gouezec, and was declared extinguished at about 5 pm local time.

"The interior was saved, above all the works of art," said Culture Minister Rachida Dati, who visited the scene at the request of President Emmanuel Macron.

Some 28 pieces were removed preventatively, the local prefecture said.

Three workers on site suffered from mild smoke inhalation when they tried to put out the fire with extinguishers, according to local authorities.

"Fire broke out at the tip of the spire, which isn't made of wood, but rather metal," the prefecture of the Seine-Maritime department told AFP.

A fire in the wooden frame of the roof was behind the massive 2019 damage to the world-famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, where repairs are only now nearing completion.

Construction began on Rouen's cathedral in the 12th Century, according to its website, with work lasting several centuries.

Renovations have been ongoing since 2017, according to Normandy's culture authority.

Lightning struck the cathedral's spire in 1822, destroying the wooden structure which was rebuilt using cast iron then steel in the early 19th-century.

Some of the renovation work involved creating firewalls within the wooden structure to prevent it suffering the same fate as Notre Dame, as well as reinforcing the roofing vaults.