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London’s Luton Airport resumes flights after blaze

London’s Luton Airport resumed flights on Wednesday afternoon hours after halting all take-offs and landings following a “significant fire” that caused the partial collapse of a parking structure. Emergency responders declared the situation a “major incident”, which sparked disruption for tens of thousands of passengers booked to leave or arrive on flights at the air hub in Bedfordshire, north of the British capital. “The runway is now open, and flights are beginning to arrive and depart,” the airport said in an update, noting all main roads around the area had also reopened but that delays were expected accessing the site. It urged passengers to contact their airlines for further information about their flights. Firefighters had worked through the night into Wednesday to extinguish the blaze, which erupted Tuesday at 8:47 pm (1947 GMT) on level three of the airport’s newly built car park at Terminal 2. Flames could be seen leaping out of the third floor Tuesday night, according to an AFP photographer at the scene. Three firefighters and a member of airport staff were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, and another firefighter was treated at the scene. Another person was treated on site. “It was horrible, the noise was like popcorn,” said Marilena Ligea Stan, from Romania, who had to wait 12 hours after landing from Bucharest to leave the airport. Robert Saunders was on his way to the airport from Somerset in south west England when he found out. “You don’t know what to do, so we did the normal thing and got a coffee. There was a really bad smell in the air, hoses everywhere. It’s terrible, absolutely terrible,” he told AFP. – No sprinklers – The local fire service said its crew worked to extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading to other nearby buildings and vehicles. “Our first two fire appliances arrived on scene just a shade under 10 minutes later to work alongside firefighters from Luton Airport Fire Service,” said Andrew Hopkinson, chief fire officer for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. “On arrival my officers were faced with a severe and rapidly spreading fire involving a large number of vehicles that ultimately spread to multiple floors and involved a partial collapse of the car park,” he added. Up to 1,500 vehicles were believed to have been in the car park at the time. Firefighting operations were still underway to dampen down the area, the service had said early Wednesday. At the peak of the blaze, there were 15 rescue pumps, three aerial vehicles and over 100 firefighters on scene at this incident. A full fire investigation will take place, it added. Hopkinson said there were no sprinklers in the car park and that “we are already talking to the airport about ensuring that any future, and the existing, car parks have sprinklers fitted.” About 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of central London, Luton is served by several budget carriers and is one of six major airports serving the British capital. It handled around 13 million passengers in 2022, and around 25,000 passengers are expected to be affected by Wednesday’s cancellations.

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