Major fire breaks out at Istanbul airport

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A huge fire that started in the cargo area has engulfed part of Turkey's Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul. All flights to and from the airport have been diverted and major fire-fighting efforts are in progress.

Hundreds of people have evacuated the area, which is about 1 kilometre away from the passenger terminal.

A witness told Turkish news channel NTV that the blaze broke out in the cargo area of Terminal A, presumably due to an electrical spark, at around 12:30 UTC. The area in which the fire is raging is near the location of the fuel depots. Unconfirmed reports suggest that there were about 250 cargo-handlers present there but most of them seem to have escaped unharmed.

Thirty metre high plumes of smoke are rising into the air and the billows can be seen from all over Istanbul, which indicates the severity of the inferno. Several fire engines and ambulances are rushing to the scene even as aircraft overhead try to douse the fire in an attempt to prevent it from spreading to a hotel nearby. The airport, incidentally, is located very close to a military hangar.

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