Firefighters are at work to put out a fire at the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral in Nantes, France, on July 18, 2020. - The major fire that broke out on July 18, 2020 inside the cathedral in the western French city of Nantes has now been contained, emergency services said. It is a major fire," the emergency operations centre said, adding that crews were alerted just before 08:00 am (0600 GMT) and that 60 firefighters had been dispatched. (Photo by Sebastien Salom-Gomis/AFP/Getty Images)
French cathedral blaze investigated as possible arson
01:05 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

An arson investigation has been launched into a fire that broke out in a cathedral in the western French city of Nantes on Saturday.

The city’s prosecutor Pierre Sennes said: “We’ve observed this morning that the fire started in three spots. This observation leads us to open an investigation for arson, an investigation to regional judicial police.

“The next phase will be working into the investigation, consultations, we will take a lot of statements. We will also verify the technical installations, the fire prevention installations, and again, we are waiting for this expert who could give us interesting elements.”

Fire Chief Laurent Ferlay told a press briefing in front of the cathedral that the blaze was not as big as the one that engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral in April 2019, and the damage is not as bad.

“I can confirm that we are not in the Notre Dame of Paris situation, rooftop is not affected,” Ferlay told CNN affiliate BFM on Saturday.

“The damage is concentrated on the organ, which seems to be completely destroyed. Its platform is very unstable and could collapse,” he said.

Ferlay said 104 firefighters were at the scene, who will remain there “all day.”

Images and videos from the scene showed orange flames and smoke billowing out of the front windows of the soaring Gothic structure.

‘Gothic gem’

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted his “support” of the firefighters who contained the fire on Saturday.

“After Notre-Dame, the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral, in the heart of Nantes, is in flames. Support to our firefighters who take all risks to save this Gothic gem of the city of the Dukes,” Macron wrote.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex expressed “solidarity” to the people of Nantes in a tweet on Saturday morning.

Firefighters work to put out a fire at the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral in Nantes.

“Thinking of our firefighters courageously mobilized to contain the fire in Nantes cathedral. I assure them of my support and my deep gratitude,” he added.

France’s Interior Minister, Culture Minister, and himself will visit Nantes Saturday afternoon, the Prime Minister added.

Referring to a previous fire at the cathedral in 1972, Nantes Mayor Johanna Rolland said “it doesn’t seem to be comparable,” while also speaking to BFM.

Regional firefighters told the public in an earlier tweet to “stay away from the area… do not interfere with the rescue squad.”

CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite contributed to this report.