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Fire Closes Part of London Airport

December 12, 1997

LONDON (AP) _ Police closed part of Britain’s Heathrow international airport and evacuated passengers Friday morning after a fire broke out at an airport restaurant.

No one was injured in the blaze, but it was expected to cause extensive delays throughout the day for both departing and arriving flights.

The fire started at 4:40 a.m. local time (11:40 p.m. Thursday EST) in a section of the roof at a Burger King restaurant in Terminal 1 and quickly spread through much of the building. Firefighters brought the fire under control 3 1/2 hours later.

Eyewitnesses said they saw smoke and flames billowing through the roof of the terminal for two hours after the fire erupted.

About 70 firefighters battled the blaze, which spread through the terminal through air ducts in the roof.

Airport authorities said Terminal 1, which handles mainly domestic flights and flights to the European continent and Ireland, would be closed until mid-afternoon. Terminals 2 and 3, located near Terminal 1, reopened after about two hours.

Terminal 4, which handles mostly British Airways overseas flights and is located about three miles from the three other terminals, remained opened.

Flights into Terminal 1 were diverted to other airports in southeast England.

``Typically on a Friday the airport will handle about 170,000 passengers. Just about half of those will be into and out of Terminal 1,″ said Roger Cato, Heathrow’s managing director.

Officials said there would be delays and changes to flight schedules throughout the day.

The fire caused heavy traffic congestion on roads around the airport.

At one point, British Broadcasting Corp. TV reported that cars were backed up for five miles along the M4 highway, which carries traffic in and out of the airport. Traffic also backed up on the M25, the huge highway that circles greater London and is linked to the M4.

The airport, 15 miles west of London, handles more international passengers than any other airport in the world. Last year, 57 million people used Heathrow.

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