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Friday, December 12, 1997 Published at 18:21 GMT


Heathrow fire causes travel chaos
image: [ Firefighters took five hours to bring the blaze under control ]
Firefighters took five hours to bring the blaze under control

There has been severe disruption at one of the world's busiest airports, Heathrow near London, after a fire broke out in one of the four main terminal buildings.

Terminal One, which handles nearly half of the domestic and international passengers passing through Heathrow, was closed for about ten hours after the fire.

More than 300 flights were cancelled and passengers have been facing continuing delays and disruption. There were no injuries or major damage.

[ image: Congestion built up as staff and passengers arrived in the morning rush hour]
Congestion built up as staff and passengers arrived in the morning rush hour
The knock-on effect of the fire will disrupt travel plans into the weekend.

The blaze broke out in a Burger King restaurant in the terminal. It took 60 firefighters almost five hours to put out.

The timing of the incident meant there were no passengers in Terminal One when the fire started.

Airport officials decided to close Terminals Two and Three for around an hour in case the outbreak spread.

The director of the fire safety engineering group at the University of Greenwich in south London, Professor Ed Galea, said: "It was extremely fortunate that the fire was very early in the day.

"Two hours later the terminal would have been packed and there could have been a chaotic evacuation," he said.

[ image: Terminal One was closed for 10 hours]
Terminal One was closed for 10 hours
"The fact that we had the terminal open again so soon after the fire proves that our safety plans were in good order."

Travellers returning to the terminal met long queues and further exasperation. Terminal One handles both domestic and international flights.

The British Airports Authority and the London Fire Service will now begin their inquiries into the cause and handling of the fire and assess the cost of the damage.

The number to ring for information on flights to and from Heathrow is (+44) 0345 222111.

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