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Fire no repeat of Windsor horror

Buckingham Palace was evacuated for the first time since World War II
Buckingham Palace was evacuated for the first time since World War II  


LONDON, England -- The fire that sent smoke pouring from the roof of Buckingham Palace was not connected with Queen Elizabeth II's golden jubilee celebrations, officials said.

Fire forced the evacuation of the British monarch's official London home late on Sunday, recalling the horror of the blaze which destroyed 100 rooms at Windsor Castle in 1992 prompting the queen to call the year her "annus horribilis."

But this time the damage was limited, no artwork or historical treasures were lost and there was little effect on the high-spirited, four-day celebration of Elizabeth's 50 years on the throne. (Special report)

Fire officials said there was no evidence the fire was started deliberately, though an investigation was still going on on Monday.

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While the blaze disrupted the rehearsals for Monday's rock concert at the palace, featuring stars including Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John and Joe Cocker, palace officials insisted the actual concert would go ahead as planned. (Queen parties on)

The London Fire Brigade said no members of the royal family were in the palace when the fire began in a roof apartment.

Rock star Ozzy Osbourne had just finished rehearsing outside, and the British Broadcasting Corporation reported that those evacuated from the area around the palace included the musicians Phil Collins, Eric Clapton and Queen guitarist Brian May.

"There is an enormous crowd of extremely famous people here sitting on the lawn chatting on their mobile phones," May told the BBC while the fire was still burning.

The blaze was reported at 6:38 p.m. (1738 GMT) and was brought under control an hour and a half later, said Colin Williamson, a Fire Brigade spokesman. Outdoor rehearsals resumed at 8:20 p.m. (1920 GMT) and workers were allowed back inside the palace at 9:40 p.m. (2040 GMT).

When the fire was at its height, smoke poured from one area of the roof as firefighters with masks, breathing equipment and hoses worked nearby. One firefighter was reported slightly injured.

The palace said a fire alarm system had detected the flames in an apartment above the East Gallery, a large corridor connecting the palace ballroom to the state rooms.

Palace spokeswoman Ailsa Anderson told The Associated Press on Monday that it was unclear how the fire started, but police said it was not intentional.

"What we do know is it is nothing to do with the concerts or any of the arrangements to do with the jubilee," Walker said. "It is in a part of the palace that is not being used."

Buckingham Palace said two ceiling areas had been damaged, and water from burst pipes soaked some carpets. Firefighter Brian Robinson said there was also some minor smoke damage.

Walker said no furniture or items from the vast royal art collection had been harmed.



 
 
 
 







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