Rome airport in chaos after fire

2015-05-07 19:29
Flames rise from Rome's Fiumicino airport main international terminal after a fire broke out overnight. (Domenico Palesse/ANSA via AP)

Flames rise from Rome's Fiumicino airport main international terminal after a fire broke out overnight. (Domenico Palesse/ANSA via AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Rome - Scores of flights were cancelled and thousands of passengers had their travel plans wrecked Thursday after a fierce fire devastated part of a terminal at Rome's Fiumicino airport.

The city's main airport was closed to passengers for several hours after a blaze triggered by an electrical fault in a bar broke out in terminal three, which is used for international flights.

When the airport reopened, there were scenes of total chaos with thousands of people trying to find out what was happening and frantic airport staff desperately attempting to deal with the backlog and match disorientated and frustrated passengers to seats on waiting planes.

The first departures of the day involving planes carrying passengers did not take place until after 14:00 (12:00 GMT) and some carriers saw their entire day's schedule in and out of the airport wiped out.

Three airport employees were treated for smoke inhalation but there were no serious injuries.

The fire erupted shortly after midnight and was not brought fully under control until more than five hours later, by which time the authorities had decided to cancel most of the morning's flights and close the airport to passengers.

A shopping area in the terminal which is home to a string of upmarket boutiques was devastated.

"The bit beyond the security gates where the shops are has been completely destroyed but the rest is usable," said Lorenzo Lo Presti, the head of Airports of Rome, the private company which runs Fiumicino.

The chaotic scenes prompted calls for a probe into why a fire limited to one terminal had caused such disruption over the entire airport for hours.

"You have to ask why the company that runs the airport did not have adequate plans in place to deal with an event of the kind that happened overnight," said Michele Anzaldi, a member of the National Assembly.

"If it had to resort to closing everything it means something has gone wrong," the centre-left deputy added. "There was no plan B."

Anzaldi and other lawmakers said the day's events showed Rome was far from ready to cope with an anticipated surge in tourist arrivals as a result of the jubilee year declared by Pope Francis from December 8.

Huge queues

Firefighters said it could take several days to make the area hit by the fire safe.

The terminal is one of four at the airport and serves flights to European countries outside the Schengen no-borders zone and destinations further afield with the exception of Israel and the United States.

Vito Riggio, president of the national civil aviation authority, told reporters at the airport that the cause was "probably a short circuit."

Police do not suspect any foul play.

As tempers frayed at the airport on a swelteringly hot day, there were also angry scenes at Rome's main railway station where thousands of passengers arrived to discover all trains to the airport, which is on the coast around 30km west of the city, had been cancelled.

The express train link resumed mid-morning but that only served to exacerbate the congestion at the airport.

With passengers being switched from the fire-hit building, huge queues built up at the other terminals.

One of the companies which flies in and out of terminal three, British Airways, had to cancel seven of its eight flights from London Heathrow to Rome and reschedule the other one to Naples, which is a 95-minute train ride or two-hour drive south of Rome.

Intercontinental flights arriving after overnight trips from the United States and elsewhere were able to land on Thursday morning and some planes took off before midday with only crew on board to ensure they could meet schedule commitments elsewhere.

Alitalia, the airline which has the most flights to and from the airport, advised passengers they could switch to alternative flights up until Sunday or have the price of their tickets reimbursed.

Other airlines made similar commitments, in line with European Union regulations in such situations.

Read more on:    italy  |  air travel

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

IT Manager (contract)

Cape Town CBD
Communicate Cape Town IT
R330 000.00 - R458 000.00 Per Year

Cluster Financial Manager

Cape Town
Network Finance
R950 000.00 - R1 000 000.00 Per Year

HSE Manager

Cape Town
Tumaini Consulting
R550 000.00 - R650 000.00 Per Year

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.