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Parts of US Capitol closed because of asbestos accident; hazardous material team on site

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A hallway is closed on the House side on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 10, 2014, because of an industrial spill involving ongoing asbestos abatement work. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

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A hallway is closed on the House side on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 10, 2014, because of an industrial spill involving ongoing asbestos abatement work. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

WASHINGTON - An accident involving asbestos forced a temporary closure of the House side of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday and prompted House leaders to delay the day's session for two hours.

A hazardous materials response team was in the building following an incident that began in the early morning hours, Capitol Police said. There were no initial reports of any injuries.

By midmorning, most of the building was reopened and Capitol tours on the House side resumed. The Senate, at the other end of the building, seemed unaffected by the incident.

The East Grand Staircase, which runs from the first floor to the third floor inside the House side of the building, was blocked off, and more than a dozen workers were gathered there. Also closed was the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Room, a third-floor room near that staircase that was named for the late Democratic speaker.

The office of the Architect of the Capitol, which oversees the Capitol and other nearby buildings, released a statement indicating the incident involves possible asbestos exposure.

"During ongoing asbestos abatement work there was a potential release affecting the House side of the Capitol," the statement read. "Samples have been collected to determine whether there was potential exposure."

The House began the day's session at noon (1600 GMT) instead of 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) because of "an industrial accident," according to a statement from Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

The Senate began its session as scheduled at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT).

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