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Eiffel Tower Fire Forces Thousands to Evacuate

There are no reports of injuries in the blaze, which broke out at the top of the structure.

July 23, 2003|From Associated Press

PARIS — A fire broke out on the top of the Eiffel Tower on Tuesday, sending black smoke pouring from the 1,069-foot landmark and forcing the evacuation of thousands of visitors.

The fire -- which erupted in a knot of cables in a telecommunications room just below the tower's broadcast antenna -- was put out after 40 minutes, said French fire official Christian Decolloredo.

The cause was not immediately known, said Paris Police Chief Jean-Paul Proust. The tower was temporarily closed.

Though it broke out above the highest point visitors can reach in the tower -- the third-floor observation deck 910 feet up -- the blaze rattled visitors to one of Europe's best-known monuments.

"I was at the top level with a friend of mine, and we started smelling some kind of bad smell," said tourist Inza Dosso, an Ivory Coast native who lives in Atlanta. "I'm so distraught. I'm glad they were able to stop it."

After smoke began pouring from the tower's top about 7:15 p.m., firetrucks and rescue vehicles gathered at the base as tourists streamed out.

Up to 4,000 visitors were evacuated, Decolloredo said. Proust said the evacuation took place "in absolute calm." There were no reports of injuries.

Proust said the fire appeared to be electrical in nature. An investigation was underway.

"At no moment was the public in danger, at no moment was the Eiffel Tower itself threatened by flames," said Jean-Bernard Bros, the president of the company that operates the tower.

The same portion of the tower caught fire in 1956, destroying the structure's summit.

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