9/11 scare as Sydney Centrepoint tower engulfed in smoke


By Adam Walters

May 26, 2009 12:00am

IT had all the appearances of a towering inferno, chillingly reminiscent of September 11 as a column of thick black smoke shrouded Sydney's tallest building yesterday.

But there were no evacuations from Centrepoint Tower, no injuries - and apparently the only chaos came in conflicting official versions of events.

A statement from Westfield shopping centre management said the fire, sparked during demolition work on the 12 floor "was extinguished by staff with no disruption to work in other areas of the project". But the fire brigade's media unit was telling a different story in a press release headlined: "Firefighters control high rise fire at Centrepoint."

"More than 40 firefighters were on scene within minutes and their quick action in rapidly accessing and extinguishing the fire averted chaos in the inner city," NSW Fire Brigades Commissioner Greg Mullins said in the release.

Many shocked city workers were sure they were seeing a disaster.

"Everyone looks at Centrepoint and wonders what would happen if it fell down and you couldn't help but think about that and what happened in New York," commuter Josh Fitzpatrick said.

Westfield attributed what at first appeared to be a full-scale disaster to the large amount of smoke caused by burning plastics after a cooling tower was ruptured by cutting equipment.

There was no serious damage, centre managers added.

Last night the fire brigade acknowledged the prompt action of staff in extinguishing the flames before firefighters arrived.

The fire brigade and the centre could agree on one thing - there were no suspicious circumstances.