Firefighters battle to extinguish a giant fire that engulfed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, on Tuesday. Photo by Eco Clement/UPI | License Photo
April 16 (UPI) — French authorities said Tuesday they are trying to nail down details of how the devastating fire began at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, but they know it wasn’t intentionally set.

Flames ravaged the 850-year-old cathedral for nine hours, causing the famous spire to collapse and partially destroying the structure. Firefighters were able to avoid total destruction of the facility. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined but French officials believe it’s linked to restoration work going on at the facility.

The fire is being investigated as an accident and officials said they’ve ruled out arson, having found no evidence the flames were intentionally started.

Authorities are examining whether the fire started on the roof, where the renovations were taking place. Firefighters said they saved the twin bell towers but the building’s roof was destroyed.

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The Crown of Thorns, the Tunic of Saint Louis and other valuable artifacts were saved from the fire.

The cathedral was the inspiration for Victor Hugo‘s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame and draws 12 million tourists a year.

“Notre Dame is burning, France is crying and the whole world, too, is extremely emotional,” Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit told reporters. “I’ve received messages from all over the world … The first message I received was from the Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia, who said to me, ‘this is our place and I am crying with you.'”

Crowds of people gathered Tuesday to see the damage to the iconic building.

“I came as soon as I could because I didn’t know how bad the fire was going to be or how much of the structure was still going to be standing, and I wanted to stand witness while it was still here,” French-American student Yvette told Al Jazeera.

“This is our heart and it is disappearing in the flames. What do we have left?” Claire, a 15-year-old onlooker, said as she watched the blaze.

Tuesday, the billionaires behind Louis Vuitton and Gucci said they will donate $338 million collectively to help rebuild the cathedral.

Francois-Henri Pinault owns a controlling stake in Kering, which owns luxury brands such as Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen. Bernard Arnault is the chairman of LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Moet & Chandon champagne. Pinault and Arnault are two of the wealthiest people in France.

“The Arnault family and the LVMH Group, in solidarity with this national tragedy, are committed to assist with the reconstruction of this extraordinary cathedral, symbol of France, its heritage and its unity,” LVMH said in a statement Tuesday.

Pinault also released a statement on the donation to rebuilt the cathedral.

“This tragedy is striking all the French people, and beyond that, all those attached to spiritual values,” Pinault said. “Faces with this tragedy, everyone wishes to give life back to this jewel of our heritage as soon as possible.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has also vowed to rebuild the iconic cathedral.

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