Italy has cancelled dozens of flights to and from its busiest airport – Fiumicino in Rome – after a fire gutted part of its international terminal. The airport was closed for several hours but officials are working to get it fully operational again. The overnight blaze – now extinguished – gutted a shopping area at terminal three. Nobody died, but a few people were treated for smoke inhalation. Thousands of passengers were hit by delays and many flights were diverted.
The fire broke out at about midnight (22:00 GMT) on Wednesday and took some five hours to bring under control. TV pictures showed the terminal engulfed in flames overnight, then the burnt-out facade in the morning. Thick smoke was seen rising from the building until mid-morning. “We got here and there was just a cloud of smoke and a terrible smell, the air was so bad we couldn’t breathe. There weren’t any masks or anything,” said passenger Andrea Lauretti, quoted by Reuters news agency.
Possible causes of the fire are being investigated, though a short circuit is thought to be the most likely. Foul play has been ruled out. The airport was closed throughout the morning, with all outgoing flights cancelled and all but a few overnight long-distance incoming flights blocked. Airport authorities said they hoped normal service would resume by midday on Thursday, but outward flights were still being cancelled mid-afternoon. Many passengers were sent to the airport’s three other terminals where they were subjected to long delays.
Airlines including national carrier Alitalia are offering alternative flights or refunds to affected passengers. British Airways, which uses the terminal, had to cancel eight flights from London Heathrow to Rome andanother was diverted to Naples.