Last night, with the blaze finally under control, German police warned that the death toll could rise as a result of poisonous fumes inhaled by the injured.
It was confirmed that one Briton was dead and another was reported to have been among the victims.
The fire started in a flower shop in the A-terminal building at the airport, Germany's second largest. The high number of casualties, according to one senior emergency services official, was caused by people in the terminal panicking and ignoring instructions to use the fire exits when the blaze first broke out. The terminal is mainly used by Lufthansa, the German national airline which serves both domestic and international flights. German television reported that the fire was the nation's worst airport disaster.
As airport officials tried to evacuate the terminal building, panic broke out among travellers both arriving and waiting for flights. Firefighters struggled for more than five hours to bring the blaze under control.
All firefighting units in the Dusseldorf area were sent to the airport,while fire-engines and rescue teams poured in from surrounding districts.
The Foreign Office was informed by the German authorities of one British passport holder who is confirmed dead.No details were being given until next of kin were informed. Initial reports that another Briton had also died could not be confirmed last night.
The nationality of those injured and needing immediate medical treatment was not confirmed by the rescue services.Initial reports say that the victims comprised seven Germans, six French people, the two Britons and one Italian. .
The fire is thought to have taken less than 30 seconds to take hold. As firefighters and the emergency services poured into the airport terminal, they found most of the dead near the flower shop and in nearby lifts. Eyewitnesses said that lethal fumes had spread rapidly and that the fire had reached the railway station underneath the terminal.
Investigators will today begin the job of discovering the precise cause of the fire.
Hans-Jurgen Leineweber, a spokesman for the Dusseldorf fire brigade, said: "It could have been caused by flying sparks from power tools."
As fire began to engulf the building, a vast black cloud hovered up to 200 metres above the terminal.
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