PM Lee Hsien Loong, other world leaders deeply saddened over fire at France's Notre Dame Cathedral

World leaders have expressed their solidarity with France over the fire. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was deeply saddened to see France's Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames, as world leaders expressed their sorrow over a massive fire on Monday (April 15) that gutted the roof of the Paris landmark.

"Deeply saddened to see the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris engulfed in flames. It is particularly poignant that this happened during Holy Week," he wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.

"I share the sense of loss of the French people over the damage to their national monument and the treasures it contained."

He added: "The Notre Dame has stood witness to events in Paris and Europe for more than 850 years. It is part of the heritage of mankind, an expression of the religious faith and human spirit of generations of people who conceived it, built it, and worshipped in it. I hope in time, a rebuilt Notre Dame will fill the Paris skyline."

The fire at the centuries-old Gothic cathedral, which was featured in Victor Hugo’s classic novel The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and is a Unesco World Heritage site, began in the early evening, burning for hours before it was brought under control.

The flames had engulfed and toppled the spire, along with the cathedral's entire roof, although firefighters managed to save the main bell towers and outer walls from collapse. One firefighter was seriously injured in the incident.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild the cathedral.

Lamenting the destruction of the Notre Dame, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore called the cathedral "more than just a house of prayer and home of treasured relics of the Church".

"It has been a symbol of faith and our longing for God. As we watch parts of the historic Church get engulfed in flames, many of our hearts ache at the loss of parts of history," said the archdiocese on Facebook.

World leaders have also expressed their solidarity with France and pain over the blaze.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed sadness and called the cathedral a "symbol of France and our European culture", while British Prime Minister Theresa May said her thoughts were with the French people and emergency services fighting the "terrible blaze", Reuters reported.

United States President Donald Trump, speaking at an event in Minnesota, said a “terrible, terrible fire” had occurred at “one of the great treasures in the world", adding that the cathedral was “a part of our culture", The New York Times reported.

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “horrified by the pictures coming from Paris". He said the cathedral was "a unique example of world heritage that has stood tall since the 14th century", and offered his thoughts to the French people.

"Notre Dame belonged to all humanity. What a tragic spectacle. What horror. I share the French nation’s sadness," tweeted Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union’s executive Commission.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Prime Minister Antonio Costa respectively sent their heartfelt condolences to President Macron.

"It is a tragedy for the French people, for the Europeans and even for all the world," Mr Rebelo de Sousa said, while Mr Costa tweeted that a part of "our European history disappears under the flames".

From the Vatican, head of the press office Alessandro Gisotti wrote on Twitter that Pope Francis stands with France and is praying for Roman Catholics and Parisians alike.

"He offers his prayers to those trying to face up to this dramatic situation," said Mr Gisotti.

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