Sparks from cutting torch caused Olympic site blaze

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LONDON, Nov 21 (Reuters) A huge fire at the London 2012 Olympic site, which sent smoke billowing across the city, was accidentally caused by sparks from a cutting torch during demolition work, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) said today.

About 75 firemen battled for nearly four hours to bring the flames under control at the warehouse in Stratford, east London, last week.

The blaze was caused by sparks from an oxy-acetylene torch setting light to polystyrene insulation within the walled cavity as workmen cut the steel piping, the ODA said.

There were fears that easterly winds might have sent asbestos in the building miles across London, but the ODA said none had been detected in the air around the building during and after the fire, or in dust and debris that had settled elsewhere during the subsequent hours.

The ODA quoted Professor Virginia Murray, head of the Health Protection Agency London's Chemical Hazards and Poisons Unit, as saying ''no adverse health effects have been reported so far''.

ODA Chief Executive David Higgins said: ''These findings confirm initial indications both that the fire was caused by accident while the warehouse was prepared for demolition and that public health was not put at risk.

''However this was a serious incident and we are instigating a thorough review of our stringent health and safety procedures as a result.'' ''Hot working'' has been suspended during demolition of similar buildings on the site while a review of procedures is carried out.

No one was hurt in the blaze, but it sent flames 40 to 50 feet into the air and a towering column of smoke could be seen for miles.

Initial attempts to douse the flames failed and the emergency services were called.

REUTERS RJ KP1756

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