PARIS, France -- The Notre Dame cathedral in Paris was engulfed in flames on Monday, police said, causing untold damage to the iconic building just days before Easter Sunday.
"Notre Dame Fire in progress," police said on Twitter. "Avoid the area and facilitate the passage of emergency vehicles and intervention of the @prefpolice."
Images and video showed flames and thick plumes of smoke billowing up and around the spire, which is surrounded by scaffolding. At the scene, the fire rapidly spread and took over the iconic cathedral as onlookers nearby scrambled in disbelief to get a view of the scene.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says the fire brigade is trying to control a "terrible fire" that's broken out at Notre Dame Cathedral.
On Twitter, Hidalgo said: "A terrible fire is underway at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The fire brigade are trying to control the fire. We are mobilized locally in close connection with church authorities. I ask everyone to respect the security perimeter."
The medieval cathedral was completed in the 13th century and today, with its towers, spire, flying buttresses and stained glass, is considered a feat of architecture as much as a religious symbol.
Located in Île de la Cité, a small island in the middle of the city, the cathedral is one of Paris' most popular attractions, drawing an estimated 13 million visitors a year.
The fire comes just days before the Easter Sunday and the end of Lent.
It was not immediately known what caused the fire and whether anybody was injured.
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