Emmanuel Macron has vowed to resurrect France’s most iconic building, Notre Dame de Paris, after the cathedral was ravaged by what is being described as a “colossal fire”.

The French President declared “we will rebuild” during an emotional visit to the Paris cathedral, hours after its roof and spire collapsed. “What’s happened this evening is obviously a terrible drama,” he said.

Initial reports had suggested that firefighters would not be able to stop the blaze and city officials said Notre Dame’s wooden roof support was lost.

Later, however, it was found that its 850-year-old stone exterior would survive. There were efforts to rescue artwork from the cathedral, one of the most visited historic monuments in Europe.

Onlookers heard loud crashes as its ceiling caved in, shattering, it is understood, some of its stained-glass windows.

The 12th-century building was undergoing a 20-year restoration and early reports speculated the fire may have been caused by building work. The prosecutors’ office said it had opened an inquiry into “accidental destruction by fire”.

The spire had been surrounded by scaffolding when the fire broke out in the late afternoon yesterday.

Some 400 firefighters were mobilised, an one was injured, according to early reports from the scene.

Mr Macron praised the “extreme courage, professionalism and determination” of emergency services. He added: “I would like to thank them on behalf of the entire nation. This is our history, and it’s burning.”

The deputy mayor of Paris, Emmanuel Gregoire, said the cathedral had suffered "colossal damages", and the emergency services were trying to salvage the art and other priceless pieces stored in the cathedral.

A cathedral spokesman said the entire wooden interior was burning and likely to be destroyed.

Officials said the fire may be linked to renovation work at one of the world's most famous tourist attractions, French media reported.

Paris prosecutors opened an investigation into the blaze as the fire was still burning out of control, and the authorities said no-one had been hurt.

HeraldScotland:

READ MORE: Notre Dame Cathedral Paris: A history

Witnesses described the blaze as an "inferno".

French media quoted the Paris fire brigade saying the blaze is "potentially linked" to the renovation work.

Paris prosecutors have launched an inquiry.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: Our Lady of Paris in flames. Emotion of a whole nation. Thought for all Catholics and for all French. Like all our countrymen, I’m sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”

HeraldScotland:

In a tweet, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "This is truly devastating. What a cultural tragedy, not just for Paris and France, but for the world."

A church spokesman said all of the cathedral’s frame was burning after the spire collapsed.

The emergency services were trying to salvage the priceless artwork stored in the cathedral.

US President Donald Trump tweeted: "So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!"

Deputy Labour Party leader Tom Watson tweeted: "Absolute tragedy unfolding. I hope the Parisians can save their beautiful Cathedral. #NotreDame"

European Parliament Brexit official Guy Verhofstadt has said he is "so sad" to see "a masterpiece of European gothic is at risk of being destroyed".

He tweeted: "So sad to see the images of the burning #NotreDameDeParis. "I hope that the Paris fire brigade will get the fire under control as soon as possible.

"My thoughts are with the people of France as a masterpiece of European gothic is at risk of being destroyed."

Ashley Huntington, 21, an American university student studying in Paris, said: “Our class ran what was supposed to be 30 minutes walking but we probably got here in 20 running.

“You could just get close and see the smoke. The smoke is everywhere in the sky. It seems like more pieces of the scaffolding are currently falling.”

She added: “It just looks like it’s out of control. I’ve never seen a fire in real life but the flames keep getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think it’s getting better at all.

“The police right now are definitely making sure the public is cleared away. We keep getting pushed further and further away.”