PARIS -- The spire of Notre Dame in Paris partly collapsed as a massive fire ravaged the roof of the Gothic cathedral on Monday evening.
Television images showed the spire over the cathedral's central crossing consumed by flames, with its upper part swaying and then falling.
Security forces sealed off the area around the cathedral as firefighters used powerful hoses in an effort to bring the blaze under control.
"The situation is obviously catastrophic," Emmanuel Gregoire, deputy mayor of Paris, told broadcaster BFMTV.
The entire woodwork of the cathedral's roof and rafters, some of which dated back to the 13th century, was in flames, cathedral spokesman Andre Finot told BFMTV.
The fire at the iconic cathedral appeared out of control as plumes of smoke billowed into the sky over the French capital.
Television images showed a huge blaze behind a skeleton of rafters, some of which had already collapsed.
One of the cathedral's stained glass windows appeared to have been burnt out on an upper story.
Crowds of onlookers were standing nearby, watching in astonishment.
Built in the 12th century, the Notre Dame Cathedral is one of Paris' most popular tourist landmarks and attracts millions of visitors every year. It is located in the heart of Paris, on the Isle de la Cite.