PARIS - A fire caused serious damage to a 17th century palace in central Paris early on Wednesday, burning away a huge portion of its rooftop just as a costly renovation was near completion.
The Qatari-owned Hotel Lambert on the Ile Saint-Louis island on the River Seine was one of the most well-preserved private mansions in Paris. Its architect Louis Le Vau also designed the Palace of Versailles.
"This is a setback for our historical heritage," Paris Mayor Bernard Delanoe told journalists at the scene.
Firefighters rushed to the mansion at around 1 a.m., struggling for six hours to contain the blaze, which broke out in a hard-to-access area below the rooftop for reasons as yet unknown. No one was injured.
By the time the fire was put out, 650 square metres (7,000 square feet) of the roof had gone, part of a central staircase and some facade masonry had collapsed and rooms had been damaged by water and smoke, fire brigade spokesman Pascal Le Testu said.
Art historians were evaluating the damage to works of art, which firefighters had tried to protect, Le Testu said.
They managed to prevent the blaze from spreading to surrounding buildings, which were evacuated as a precaution.