ONLOOKERS with tears in their eyes watched wordlessly as Notre Dame burned.

Advertiser reporter Hedi Mehrez, who was raised in Paris, was part of the crowds watching firefighters battle the cathedral blaze.

He said: “As a French person who grew up and studied in Paris it's painful to see a symbol of our own history burst into flames.

“It was impressive and everyone else around me was wordless. Some were crying and holding their heads in their hands, which was moving and sad.

Swindon Advertiser:

Adver reporter Hedi Mehrez captured this picture at the scene

“Others were singing the Ave Maria while the Notre Dame was burning. I stayed there for about two hours, thinking about what Paris could potentially lose if firefighters couldn’t save the cathedral.

“I also felt guilty, because I went into nearby church Saint Michel two-days-ago. My friend wanted to go inside the Notre Dame and I remember saying, ‘Not again, we've already been there several times – we’ll go another time’.

“It's only after seeing the Notre Dame burning that I realised how much I would miss it if we lose it.”

Swindon Advertiser:

Hedi had visited Notre Dame two days before the fire

It took hundreds of firefighters around 16 hours to get the fire extinguished. Initial reports of smoke coming from the roof of the building circulated from 7pm local time on Monday afternoon.

Flames torched the roof, sending the cathedral’s spire crashing to the ground.

Donations have poured in to rebuild the national monument, while French president Emmanuel Macron said a national subscription would be launched when he visited the scene on Monday night.

French tycoon Bernard Arnault and his luxury goods group LVMH have pledged 200 million euro (£173 million) towards the reconstruction of Notre Dame, following a reported 100 million euro (£86 million) donation from another French billionaire, Francois Pinault.