An intense fire has engulfed the Basilica Saint-Donatien in Nantes after breaking out earlier this morning.
Much of the basilica’s roof appears to have been destroyed with around 40 firefighters working to put the fire out since 10.30am (local time).
Reports suggest that the fire broke out after morning Mass with worshippers evacuated from the building.
According to a tweet from radio station France Bleu Loire Ocean, the police have confirmed that the fire was caused accidentally by workers carrying out welding on the roof.
The mayor of Nantes, Johanna Rolland, said in a statement: “This is an extremely important symbol for the entire Catholic community of Nantes and is part of the common heritage for all residents, for all of Nantes’ people.”
The basilica, which was consecrated in 1889, is one of two in the western French city.
The other basilica in Nantes, Cathedral of Saint Pierre and Saint Paul, suffered from a similar roof fire in 1972 just 28 years after being damaged during World War Two.
Frederic Leguiller, head of Nantes’ fire operations, told Ouest France that the blaze began accidentally
He said: “We were alerted mid-morning to a small fire in the church. Workers were working on the roof at that time.
“They tried to extinguish the fire immediately, without success unfortunately. Significant resources have been deployed to try to contain the fire on the roof of the church, which is not easy because of the very large volume.”
A number of residents and news agencies have posted pictures of the fire on social media.
— News_Executive (@News_Executive) June 15, 2015
Twitter user Teodor Stoica tweeted: “Very sad what happened in #Nantes. Maybe #France will lose another architectural and cultural monument? I hope not…”