[ROME] Rome's main Fiumicino airport gradually reopened on Thursday after a fire that badly damaged the main international terminal building forced a closure of about 12 hours.
The airport, Italy's busiest with 39 million passengers in 2014, was closed when the blaze started just after midnight (2200 GMT). It was gradually being reopened and officials said they hoped it would be almost fully operational, despite flight delays, at 2 pm (1200 GMT).
The fire, which one official called "very violent," broke out in Terminal 3, which is used for international flights.
It was believed to have been started by a short circuit in an electrical cabin that was under maintenance in an area of shops, an airport official told reporters.
A police source there was no indication that the fire was the result of arson but an investigation was continuing.
At least three people suffered smoke inhalation, a fire brigade official said, adding that injuries could have been much more numerous had the fire broken out during the day when the terminal is crowded. A number of shops were seriously damaged.
Alitalia, Italy's national carrier, had cancelled all flights to and from Fiumicino except some inter-continental arrivals.
The officials said some flights already set for departure from other terminals at the airport were allowed to take off after the fire broke out.
The closure came at one of the busiest times of the day for the airport, when most trans-Atlantic flights are scheduled to arrive and depart.
Passengers who had arrived for early morning flights were not allowed inside any of the terminals. The main highway linking the airport to Rome was closed to allow emergency vehicles to pass and train service from the city centre was suspended.
Pictures posted on the Internet showed thick clouds of smoke billowing from the terminal during the night.
The airport is almost wholly owned by Italian infrastructure company Atlantia. Sources said this week Atlantia had received expressions of interest to buy a 15 per cent stake in its airport unit Aeroporti di Roma (AdR), which runs Rome's two main airports.