REIMS, France (AP) _ A hot-air ballon was ripped apart when a gust of wind blew it into a tower of the Reims cathedral, but the two women aboard escaped unscathed, authorities said.

The women, pilot Helene Dorigny and passenger Edmonde Baes, climbed from the balloon's basket and descended down the stairs inside the tower. The building received minor damage.

The accident occurred just after a group of balloonists took off together Friday night at Reims, capital of the Champagne district 75 miles northeast of Paris.

The cathedral at Reims was built during the 13th and 14th centuries, and is a monument of French Gothic architecture.