A large part of the Apple Expo convention centre at Porte de Versailles was flooded last night after a sprinkler system in the hall triggered itself.

The event damaged a number of exhibits, most badly hit was Microsoft’s giant stand.

The accident occurred during the night. French news agency AFP states that engineers faced unexpected challenges turning the sprinkler system off. The hall was evacuated, and exhibitors and staff had to try and move computer equipment out before major damage occurred.

At the time, exhibitors were engaged in the final stages of setting up their stands. The hall was full of new and unannounced equipment. The cost of the damage is not known at this time.

Some parts of the hall suffered two inches of flooding. One side of the Apple booth was seriously affected, and repair work is continuing. MacCentral reports that some of the Macs on the Apple stand were also damaged.

A number of other exhibitors suffered too, but reports from Paris this morning claim the most seriously affected booth belongs to Microsoft, which plans to launch Office 2001 at the show.

Following the damage, the hall is expected to open late this morning. Steve Jobs’ Keynote speech is also running late.

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