ISTANBUL, Turkey – A huge fire engulfed the cargo section of Istanbul’s Ataturk International airport on Wednesday, blocking air traffic and causing hundreds of panicked people to flee, television reports said.
Authorities evacuated thousands of people from nearby terminals and moved away parked cargo planes as black smoke, mixed with flames, billowed 100 feet into the air.
A firefighter atop a tall ladder poured a stream of water on the fire, and a plane flew overhead, dropping a payload onto the flames — apparently fire retardant chemicals. But the flames rose above the building.
The cause of the fire was not known. Cihan News Agency said a short-circuit may have caused the fire and private NTV television said the fire began in a section where fuel depots were located.
NTV said some cargo workers may have been trapped inside the blazing two-story cargo building, which was used to store international freight arriving in Istanbul.
Private Sky-Turk television reported occasional explosions at the building and said chemicals may have caused the fire.
The building was located close to a hangar housing military aircraft.