24 people were arrested in connection with bombings that also left about 500 injured, an official says

Akshat Saraf, 30, was in Colombo’s Shangri-La Hotel with his wife and infant daughter when the explosions struck. They could hear blasts from their room on the 25th floor, the Indian national told CNN.

“First blast was very loud and our room started shaking. At first I thought it was a thunderstorm and I didn’t pay too much attention. It had been raining in Sri Lanka for some time,” he said.

“It was the second blast when I sensed that something was not right.”

He and his family grabbed their passports and took the emergency exit to head to the ground floor.

“When we reached the 4th floor we saw blood on the stairs,” he said. “When we evacuated that’s when we saw a lot of ambulances and hotel staffs helping the injured guests outside.”

“It was a horrific sight. When I saw injured guests, they seemed very serious. Some of them [had] junks of glass stuck in their body. I could see some of the chefs in white aprons covered in blood.”

Police, army and emergency services personnel began arriving within five minutes, Saraf said. Guests were evacuated offsite, and then to a nearby shelter with a few hours, he added.

The Paris Fire Brigade tweeted stone construction of the cathedral was saved, as were the main works of art

Firefighters stand near the fire. 

Notre Dame’s centuries-old wooden roof beams, stone exterior and soaring Gothic architecture made Monday’s blaze especially difficult to tackle and Paris firefighters deserve praise for their efforts, experts say.

The biggest problem, experts say, was accessing the wooden ceiling beams which formed the frame for the soaring roof.

“It was pretty evident in the first 20 minutes that it was going to be a bad fire,” said Gregg Favre, a former firefighter with the St. Louis Fire Department in the United States.

Aerial options like the one suggested by US President Donald Trump were considered unrealistic.

“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!” Trump said in a tweet.

But the French civil security agency, Securite Civile, said in a tweet — in English, an apparent response to Trump’s suggestion — that any aerial water dumping could “weaken the structure of Notre-Dame and result in collateral damage to the buildings in the vicinity.”

The spire and most of the roof of the centuries-old cathedral have been destroyed, but the two bell towers and the main edifice were saved.

Video released by the French Interior Ministry showed the scale of the response. Authorities deployed some 400 firefighters, pumped water from the Seine and flew drones to survey the damage.

Read more here.