Members of Gympie French community react to Notre-Dame fire
MEMBERS of Gympie's French community reacted with despair when news of the catastrophic Notre-Dame Cathedral fire in Paris broke early yesterday morning.
Hundreds of firefighters worked tirelessly to save the beloved 850-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral after the blaze broke out at around 6.50pm Monday night in Paris, just before 3am local time.
The world watched on as heartbreaking scenes ensued. Smoke billowed into the night sky and the inferno destroyed the celebrated landmark's spire and roof.
Gympie chef Jacques Martin was "devastated” upon learning of the catastrophe.
"All of France is devastated, it's like the Eiffel Tower burning. It's a big monument in Paris,” Mr Martin said.
"It's an icon. It's like any big landmark, like the Opera House in Sydney would burn. It's an icon of the country.
"I was devastated, it's terrible. They won't be able to redo it the same way ... with the same materials. It's a big loss.”
Mr Martin expressed concern for the future of surrounding businesses depending on high tourist volumes to the cathedral, which would be indefinitely interrupted by the disaster.
The Gympie Times advertising executive Caroline Vielle, who returned to France for a holiday earlier this month, described a "surreal” feeling across the country as Notre-Dame burned.
"We all watched the fire on TV last night. We actually saw the (cathedral) on Saturday while crossing Paris to go to our train,” Ms Vielle said.
"We were all so relieved when they said the building and the towers would be saved. It was scary to think it could have been fire coming out of the front towers.”
Swiss-Australian Times journalist Philippe Coquerand said he was shaken by the news, having visited Notre-Dame numerous times.
"I've sat in the Notre-Dame for services. For someone who's actually been inside and seen every element inside the cathedral, it's very disheartening,” Mr Coquerand said.
"It's the same for everyone who has visited or wants to visit the Notre-Dame.
"We will be feeling this for a long time.”
Priceless objects and artwork were saved from the blaze, including the crown of thorns believed by Catholics to have been worn by Jesus during the crucifixion.
"We can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved,” Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet told News Corp reporters outside the cathedral.