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The fire is just a fuse. Almost a warning of doom at the airport, Fiumicino, one that for years has been seeking to pick up again on the international scene. The Alitalia case and the economic crisis that have brought to a progressive reduction in the flights has slowly transformed the main airport of the capital into a secondary hub in the world. Competition is too tough from ports in Northern Europe: Paris, London and Frankfurt have now become the main reference points for airlines engaged in transatlantic flights. The fire of yesterday is likely to put a stop on a major development plan aimed at making Leonardo da Vinci competitive again.

In 2012 in fact, the signing of an agreement between Atlantia (infrastructure company controlled by Autostrade S.p.a group) Italian civil aviation authority and the airports of Rome for the development and modernisation of the entire Capitoline airport system envisaged a total investment of 12 billion by 2044. The core of the programme envisged potentialising Fiumicino, which should take place in two stages: by 2021 it is expected to optimise the current Fiumicino Airport South, which would handle traffic of 55 million passengers a year by placing the Da Vinci among the main European hub. The second phase should be completed by 2044 with the construction of the new North Terminal and which would allow 100 million passengers direct access in Italy and in Rome per anum, a city which has always been among the most attative to tourists from all over the world. This although, stressed then the Ceo of Atlantia Giovanni Castellucci “the construction of the new terminal is subject to a growing trend of passenger demand which justifies the investment.” And that is precisely the point: without adequate growth of travelers the most substantial investment is likely to jump. From this point of view a big helping hand might come from Ethiad who last year took over Alitalia. The carrier’s plan is to transform Fiumicino into a connecting bridge between the Emirates, Asia and the West with the launch of at least 7 new routes in three years. This is what was most feared but which has not yet occurred with the entry of Ethiad in the capital input of Adr, which may have been planned for this purpose. However, in this case too, it’s to be seen whether it’s worth the hassle.

Meanwhile, the Roman airport is counting the estimates of the damage of the fire: 1,000 square metres of duty-free shops, dining areas have been reduced to ashes. What has remained intact, thankfully, left-luggage office, security systems, in particular the metal detectors, and the benches for acceptance. According to an initial reconstruction of the incident, it is supposed to have been generated by a short-circuit in an electric faulty outlet, probably that of a refrigerator. The fire then propagated along the electric connections triggered off the fire alarm but the flames were already high. The fire was not intentional, despite initial fear. But until the completion of the investigations, the human component, even if it were the merest incompetence, cannot be excluded.

The airport was immediately closed,  creating problems on all  international airlines, especially that which leaves from Milan and handles most of the links with Rome. At first the opening again of Leonardo Da Vinci had been set for 2.00pm but operations were concluded at mid-morning,thus making it possible to anticipate the opening. Before the outbound flights, especially long distances, then incoming ones. At 10.15 passenger service and the airport resumed at 3.40pm regularly, except for the T3, epicentre of the tragedy,which is  still inaccessibile to the public. For a return to full normality, said Enac, we will need a few days. On behalf of the government, the Minister of transport, Graziano Delrio, exhorted that the utmost be done to speed up the timing. Thousands, within hours of the fire, were forced to remain barricaded in the stopover, with no chance of escape. To shed some light on the matter, prosecutors have opened an enquiry at Civitavecchia for negligent arson against skip, and have put the entire area involved under seizure.

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