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Fire emergency at EU headquarters

A FIRE sent dark smoke billowing from the executive floor of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels yesterday, and hundreds of workers and visitors were evacuated.

The smoke was seen rising shortly after lunch from the floor where the European Commissioners have their offices. There was no panic as European Union workers filed outside and stood watching the developments. There were no reports of injuries.

At least a half-dozen fire trucks quickly moved into the Commission compound, and a helicopter swooped overhead as smoke continued rising over an hour after the fire was detected.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso used the stairs to safely reach the lobby from the top floor of the 13-story building.

"In a case like this, you don't use elevators," said his spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.

Laitenberger said the firefighters were checking every floor of the iconic star-shaped building, widely seen as the center of EU power. He said it was unclear where the fire had started.

On any given day, some 2,000 bureaucrats, journalists and visitors are in the building.

Police cordoned off the building and kept people away from the area.


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