Posted on 01/19/2016 | About Paris, France

A serious fire broke out this morning in the roof and top floor of the legendary Ritz hotel in Paris, with plumes of smoke visible across the French capital. Initial reports suggest the entire top floor has been destroyed. People from nearby buildings were evacuated.

The fire is believed to have started in a top floor area and spread to the roof at around 6am local time. The hotel is currently empty while it undergoes a major €200 ($314.5) million refurbishment. Around 15 fire trucks responded on the scene, and a fire service spokesman told BFM TV a "large" part of the five-star hotel was affected. A spokesman for the Paris fire brigade said no one has been hurt and the concern was to stop the fire spreading to the whole of the roof and seventh floor.

People posted images to Twitter of the fire, seen from across the French capital, as well as images from the scene suggesting police have shut off a large part of the Place Vendôme in the 1st Arrondissement. Owned by Mohammed el-Fayed, The Ritz is the hotel was where Princess Diana and el-Fayed’s son, Dodi spent the last days before their deaths in 1997. It has been undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation since August 2012 and was due to reopen in March after several delays.

Although there seemed not to be significant damage to most of the historic structure, built in 1898 by the Swiss businessman Cesar Ritz, the reopening due in six weeks' time will almost certainly have to be delayed for several months. The Ritz used to be the Paris hotel of choice for royalty and film stars. It is celebrated amongst other things for being the birthplace of the Bloody Mary. Its main bar was a favourite haunt of Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s and is now named after him. A decision was taken to rebuild the hotel in 2012, after it failed to meet the demanding new standards to qualify for “palace” status introduced for luxury hotels by the city of Paris.