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Explosion, Fire Hits Dutch Airport

April 8, 2001

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ Thousands of people were evacuated from Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam Sunday after an explosion in a restaurant french fryer started a fire in the passenger terminal.

Workers at the Burger King restaurant _ billed by the company as its busiest outlet in the world _ said they jumped over the counter and ran when they heard the explosion in the kitchen.

``No one was injured. We closed the airport just to make sure it wasn’t more dangerous,″ said Fire Chief Pieter Heere. Damage was minimal, mostly to the restaurant’s ventilation system.

Immediately after the blast, dozens of ambulances and police vehicles raced to the airport, one of Europe’s busiest.

Traffic was halted from highways leading to the airport, and all entrances were blocked. Police politely turned away passengers at roadblocks who pleaded that they would miss their flights.

Trains also were halted. The Schiphol train terminal, below the airport’s arrival area, is on the main route between the largest cities in the Netherlands.

All incoming and outgoing flights were delayed.

The explosion occurred in the fryer used for preparing french fries at the Burger King restaurant in the airport’s main shopping plaza. Dutch television said the resulting fire spread to the roof of the terminal and other shops.

Eli van Goudoever said he was serving customers at the counter when he heard a terrifying noise from the kitchen. ``We had the feeling that the roof was caving in,″ he said. ``I jumped over the counter. Everyone was in a panic at first.″

Hans Reus, who works at an airport shop, said he closed his store when he smelled the smoke, walked into the mall and saw people running from the smoking restaurant. ``The police were taking everyone out of the airport,″ he said, but he saw no one injured.

A news release from Burger King several weeks ago said the Schiphol outlet was its busiest in the world.

Marc-Henri Ahora, returning on a flight from Zurich, walked away from the airport on a bicycle path carrying two heavy bags slung over his shoulders. He said he preferred to walk rather than wait until the airport was reopened for taxis and trains.

Schiphol, the home airport of Royal Dutch KLM airline, is a popular transit point for travelers making connections from Europe to points around the world. Nearly 40 million passengers came through the airport last year. Its shopping plaza has dozens of up-market shops, and tens of thousands of passengers pass through on a typical day.

In January, an explosion in a restaurant restroom left three people injured. That incident was originally blamed on youths from the Maluku islands in Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, but a homeless man later admitted setting off the explosion. He had no political motive.

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