Fire sweeps through Venice's Hotel Des Bains

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ROME -- An overnight fire ripped through part of the Venice Lido's historic Grand Hotel Des Bains, forcing the temporary closure of the stately property. But officials said the hotel will "probably" be fully operational by the start of the Venice Film Festival, in which the hotel plays a central role.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze early Tuesday, though the cause of the fire was still under investigation late in the day. There were no injuries from the fire, which damaged at least 10 rooms and may also have burned part of the hotel's electrical infrastructure.

Officials said the fire might delay the April re-opening of the hotel, which is popular with jet setters and film stars. But it was likely that the problem will be fixed before the start of the Aug. 27-Sept. 6 festival, officials said. The hotel closes each year between October and March.

"There's no reason to think it will take more than a few weeks to repair the damage and fix whatever problem started the fire," a hotel official said in a brief telephone interview.

If the re-opening is delayed, it will add to the infrastructure woes of the Venice festival, which will have to work around the three-year project to construct a new central Palazzo del Cinema starting this year.

Along with the Excelsior Hotel, the Des Bains is one of only two five-star properties on the Venice Lido, and it is popular with film stars, studio executives and journalists during the festival.

The hotel also was the site of Thomas Mann's classic book "Death in Venice," published in 1912. Iconic Italian director Luchino Visconti chose the site for his adaptation of Mann's novel. The film went on to win the Palme d'Or in Cannes in 1971.
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