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BLAZE BREAKS OUT AT NATWEST BUILDING

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LONDON-Insurers are expecting minimal claims from last Wednesday's fire in the NatWest Tower, a City of London landmark since it was completed in 1980 at a cost of about 150 million ($225 million).

About 35 firefighters fought the blaze, which broke out in a cooling tower on the roof of the 42-story building and spread to some of the surrounding machinery.

"There was no major damage to the building itself," said a spokesman for retail bank National Westminster P.L.C., which built and owns the tower.

The NatWest Tower was the bank's headquarters until it was heavily damaged in an Irish Republican Army bomb attack in 1993.

During the rebuilding phase, the bank took the opportunity to upgrade the facilities. The refurbishment work started in September 1994 and continued last week. About 500 workers from John Laing Construction P.L.C. were onsite when the fire broke out in the building in the afternoon.

All the workers had been safely evacuated by the time six London Fire Brigade trucks reached the tower, said an LFB spokesman.

The fire was brought under control just over an hour after the initial alarm.

A spokeswoman for Laing said that the fire will not delay the refurbishment, which is scheduled to be completed in March 1997. "The damage was minimal," she said, adding that work resumed as usual on the next day.

London-based multiline insurer Commercial Union Assurance Co. P.L.C. leads the cover for all NatWest property, but, like the bank, would not provide any information on the policy.

The cause of the fire, although described as "not suspicious" by the LFB, was not being revealed by the property owner, insurer or contractor.

A spokesman for Commercial Union said the situation didn't look very serious.

Insurance market sources said that the coverage for the fire could not be identified until the cause of the fire had been isolated.

The NatWest building has been dogged by problems since it was first constructed, when it ran substantially over budget and schedule.