Notre-Dame of Paris 'saved' after fire destroys steeple

French firefighters won an hours-long battle to save the main structure of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, after a colossal fire caused the spire of the historic edifice to crash to the ground and wiped out centuries of heritage.

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed that "we will rebuild" Notre-Dame and expressed relief that "the worst had been avoided" in a fire that risked bringing the entire edifice down.

The fire destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old UNESCO world heritage landmark, whose spectacular Gothic spire collapsed before the eyes of horrified onlookers on a previously pristine early spring evening.

The fire, which came as Catholics prepare to celebrate Easter, sent orange flames and clouds of grey smoke bill owing into the sky as stunned Parisians and tourists watched on in horror.

As darkness fell, some 400 firefighters then battled to control the fire and save at least its iconic front towers.

They finally gained the upper hand as midnight approached.

Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said "we can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved" as well as the two towers.

(with news agency inputs)