"I will tell you, the fire that they are having at the Notre Dame cathedral is something like few people have witnessed," the president said at Nuss Truck and Equipment outside of Minneapolis, reports the New York Post. “It is one of the great treasures of the world. The greatest artists in the world. Probably, if you think about it, I would say it might be greater than almost any museum in the world and it’s burning very badly. Looks like it’s burning to the ground."
Trump later praised the historic landmark, which was completed in the 1300s.
"That is beyond countries, that is beyond anything. That is a part of our growing up. It’s a part of our culture. It’s a part of our lives," Trump said. "That’s a truly great cathedral. I have been there, I have seen it. It’s a terrible scene."
The president then speculated on the cause, which is suspected to be an accident. Officials said it might have been linked to $12 million restoration work on the spire, which was destroyed in the fire, and its edifice, reports the AFP.
"They think it was caused by, at this moment they don’t know, but they think it was caused by renovation," Trump said. "I hope that’s the reason. Renovation, what’s that all about? It’s a terrible sight to behold.”
The president's first response to the fire was a tweet suggesting officials use "flying water tankers" to put out the fire. However, the French civil defense and crisis management agency said that was not practical and would only make the damage worse.
“The drop of water by air on this type of building could result in the collapse of the entire structure along with the firefighters who are currently doing their best to save Notre Dame,” the agency explained. “Helicopter or airplane, the weight of the water and the intensity of the drop at low altitude could weaken the structure of Notre-Dame and result in collateral damage to the buildings in the vicinity.”
Former President Barack Obama also tweeted about the fire, writing, "Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can."
A Paris police spokesman told CNN the fire is now under control. French President Emmanuel Macron later praised the firefighters who saved as much of the cathedral as possible.
Photo credit: Getty Images