Fire in central Algiers as Hollande arrives: AFP
A fire broke out in the basement of the central post office in Algiers on Wednesday, as French President Francois Hollande headed into the city to begin his two-day visit, AFP journalists reported.
Fire engines rushed to the scene to douse the flames, which emerged from two openings in the building, as thick black smoke billowed into the sky.
The post office's basement hosts telecoms offices, where the fire broke out, and telephone services in the area were seriously disrupted.
Hundreds of Algerians stood behind barriers nearby, some of them wrapped in the national flag, hoping to see the presidential convoy as it passed.
It seems these are "telephone cables that are burning," a telecoms agent told AFP, although the cause of the fire, which blocked traffic in the city centre, was not immediately clear.
A resident in the neighbourhood said a similar fire broke out two years ago in the same place, which he described as a "labarynth."
Accompanied by a large delegation of ministers and business leaders, Hollande is seeking to end simmering resentment over French colonial rule and bolster ties with the OPEC oil producer, during his landmark visit.
© 2012 AFP