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European Commission building evacuated after fire

Latest update : 2009-05-18

A fire broke out in the European Commission's headquarters in Brussels on Monday. The Berlaymont building, where 2,700 people work and which hundreds visit daily, had to be evacuated but no injuries were reported.

REUTERS - The headquarters of the EU's executive European Commission in Brussels was evacuated on Monday due to a fire but no injuries were reported, Commission and fire brigade officials said.

A Brussels fire department official said the blaze had started in a structure sitting atop the Berlaymont that housed cables, electrical wires and other technical apparatus.

"It's that technical structure that was completely on fire -- the cables, the wires, everything," the official said, adding she did not know what had caused the blaze.

The building was still smoking at 1320 GMT, a Reuters witness said, more than two hours after the Commission said the fire broke out.

An official at the scene told staff to go home for the day and to check by phone the following morning whether the building would be open. Police and fire authorities were investigating the blaze, the official said.

Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said he had heard of no casualties and that the evacuation "went well, calmly, quietly." He said he did not know how many people had been in the building, called the Berlaymont, when the blaze broke out.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia and Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes were escorted out by security staff and police.

"There's black smoke coming out the top (of the building). It looks like it's maybe under control, there's less smoke than there was a few minutes ago," another Commission spokesman, Joseph Hennon, said earlier.

Date created : 2009-05-18