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A fire badly damaged the international terminal at Rome’s Fiumicino airport early Thursday, forcing its closure for more than 12 hours.

Italy’s busiest airport gradually reopened Thursday and officials said they hoped it would be almost fully operational, despite flight delays, at 2 p.m. (8 a.m. ET).

The fire, which one official called "very violent," broke out shortly after midnight in Terminal 3, which is used for international flights. It was believed to have been started by a short circuit in an electrical cabin that was under maintenance in an area of shops, an airport official told reporters.

At least three people suffered smoke inhalation, a fire brigade official said, adding that injuries could have been much more numerous had the fire broken out during the day when the terminal is crowded. A number of shops were seriously damaged.

- Reuters