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French officials launch arson inquiry after historic cathedral burns in Nantes

French officials launched an arson inquiry Saturday after a fire broke out in the Gothic cathedral in the western French city of Nantes, destroying the organ, shattering stained-glass windows and sending black smoke spewing from between its towers.

President Emmanuel Macron compared blaze to Notre Dame Cathedral fire in 2019

Firefighters work to extinguish the blaze at St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral, in Nantes, western France, on Saturday. The fire is bringing back memories of the devastating blaze at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. (Laetitia Notarianni/The Associated Press)

French officials launched an arson inquiry Saturday after a fire broke out in the Gothic cathedral in the western French city of Nantes, destroying its famed organ, shattering stained-glass windows and sending black smoke spewing from between its towers.

Residents and tourists watched aghast, and emergency workers cordoned off the area around the St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral, in the historical centre of this city on the Loire River.

A city hall official said the fire broke out Saturday morning inside the 15th-century cathedral and the cause is unclear. The official is not authorized to be publicly named. No injuries have been reported.

The local firefighter service said the roof is not affected by the fire and was "under control."

They brushed aside comparisons with Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, whose lead roof and spire burned down in April 2019. For many, the Nantes fire will bring back memories of that devastating blaze that threatened to topple the medieval monument.

"After Notre-Dame, the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral, in the heart of Nantes, is in flames. Support for our firefighters who take all risks to save this Gothic jewel of the city," French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.

The fire broke stained-glass windows, sending black smoke spewing from the 15th-century church — which also suffered a serious fire in 1972. (Romain Boulanger/The Associated Press)

Saturday's fire broke the main stained-glass windows between the two towers of the cathedral, which also suffered a serious fire in 1972.

"It is a part of our history, a part of our heritage," Nantes Mayor Johanna Rolland told reporters. "We all have these images in mind, this story in our hearts, but at this stage the situation does not seem to be comparable to that of 1972."

French Prime Minister Jean Castex and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin will be among officials who will go to Nantes on Saturday afternoon.

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