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World News

Fire guts Egypt's parliament, injures 10

CAIRO (Reuters) - More than a dozen fire engines and military helicopters battled a massive fire that gutted the main building of Egypt’s upper house of parliament on Tuesday and injured at least 10 people.

A fire burns at the Shoura Council near the Egyptian Parliament in Cairo August 19, 2008. More than a dozen fire engines and military helicopters battled a massive fire that gutted the main building of Egypt's upper house of parliament on Tuesday and injured at least 10 people. REUTERS/Amr Dalsh

Flames and clouds of smoke billowed in the air from the old three-storey building in central Cairo. State-run media said the cause was probably a short-circuit.

Police cordoned off the area around the building, which is close to the cabinet house, the American University in Cairo and several Western embassies.

“God protect us!” Fathi Sorour, speaker of the lower house of parliament, said in a live interview on the state-run Nile News television.

Sorour, who was not inside the parliament, said he feared the fire could spread to nearby buildings and urged firefighters to redouble their efforts.

Helicopters hovered over the river Nile to scoop water into containers suspended beneath them before flying to parliament and dumping the water over the blaze, Reuters witnesses said.

More than a dozen fire engines were spraying water from hoses to put out the flames, which caused parts of the wooden ceiling on the top floor to collapse, a Reuters witness said. Ambulances were also at the scene.

Security officials and medics said 10 people, mostly firefighters, suffered from smoke inhalation. Nile News quoted an unnamed security source saying 13 people were injured.

The fire broke out on the top floor and later spread to the rest of the building, officials said. Hundreds of people gathered near the building to take photographs.

State-run television urged people in repeated addresses to avoid streets leading to the site of the fire.

Additional reporting by Mohamed Abdellah and Alaa Shahine

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