Fire at Changi Airport Terminal 2: Normal operations resume 9 hours after evacuation

VIDEO: ST READER
An empty T2 as people were evacuated.
An empty T2 as people were evacuated.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
An airport staff writing flight updates on a whiteboard at Changi T3.
An airport staff writing flight updates on a whiteboard at Changi T3.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
A fire broke out at Changi Airport Terminal 2 on Tuesday, May 16.
A fire broke out at Changi Airport Terminal 2 on Tuesday, May 16. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
People streaming into the departure hall at Changi Airport Terminal 2 in the wee hours of Wednesday (May 17).
People streaming into the departure hall at Changi Airport Terminal 2 in the wee hours of Wednesday (May 17). ST PHOTO: NG HUIWEN
Display at Changi Airport Terminal 2.
Display at Changi Airport Terminal 2.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
An empty T2 as people were evacuated.
An empty T2 as people were evacuated.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Passengers arriving at T2 were told to cross over to T3.
Passengers arriving at T2 were told to cross over to T3.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Display shown at Changi Airport Terminal 3.
Display shown at Changi Airport Terminal 3.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Stranded passengers from flights leaving from T2 told to check the flight information boards for updates at Changi T3.
Stranded passengers from flights leaving from T2 told to check the flight information boards for updates at Changi T3. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
An airport staff writing flight updates on a whiteboard at Changi T3.
An airport staff writing flight updates on a whiteboard at Changi T3.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Stranded passengers diverted from T2 at T3 waiting for updates on their flights.
Stranded passengers diverted from T2 at T3 waiting for updates on their flights.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Changi Airport Terminal 2 was closed for the safety of all passengers and visitors after a fire broke out in a room with air-conditioning equipment, Changi Airport Group said in a media release late on Tuesday (May 16) night.

The entire terminal was evacuated after the fire alarm was triggered at about 5.40pm, with about 40 flights at T2 affected and six people requiring medical assistance, CAG said.

Slightly more than nine hours later, the airport resumed normal operations at 3am on Wednesday (May 17). 

Shortly after the evacuation,  firefighters from both the Airport Emergency Service and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) arrived.

Two people at the terminal were taken to hospital for observation after they approached Changi Airport staff for medical assistance, and another four were taken to the clinic at Terminal 3.

CAG said SCDF gave the all-clear for T2 at about 10pm, and flight operations began resuming progressively starting with arrivals.


Passengers arriving to an empty T2 as people were evacuated. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

 

Arrivals scheduled from 2247 to 0005 had all landed when ST visited T2 at 12.13am on Wednesday (May 17).

While T2 was closed, passengers and visitors and all departing and arriving flights there were moved to T3.

The airport activated additional manpower and resources to facilitate the flights moved to T3, including for check-in and baggage handling, and airport staff and airline partners were also on the ground to help direct passengers, CAG said. 

  • Timeline of events

  • 5.40pm: Smoke is seen coming through the air vents at Terminal 2. Fire alarm 2 activates, starting  an evacuation. Departing flights are grounded. Arriving passengers disembark onto the tarmac.

    6.38pm:  Changi Airport  says situation is under control and fire's cause identified.  But adds flight operations at T2 affected. By this time, traffic to T2 is blocked off. Long jams build up as travellers make their way way to T1.

    7.04pm: SCDF says a "small" fire has been put out using a hosereel jet.

    7.29pm: Changi Airport  tells passengers departing from T2 to expect "significant delays". Those departing T2 are being told to gather at T3 to await instructions.

    8.45pm: Affected passengers are told to head to bus bays for briefing by airline representatives. Exhaust fans are run to clear  smell of smoke in T2  as cleaning process begins. 

    9pm: Details on which T3 rows to head to for check-in for diverted flights are revealed. Passengers start to make their way to the departure hall.

    10pm: SCDF gives all-clear for T2. Changi Airport announces that flight operations are to resume progressively, starting with some arriving flights.

Passengers had earlier told ST that they were unsure of what to do when flights were diverted.

CAG added that updated flight information was shared across all airport channels including the flight information display screens and on Changi Airport's social media channels.

The airport also coordinated with regional airports with flights arriving into Singapore to adjust their departure times and help manage the arrival load.

Undergraduate See Wen Hao, 22, who arrived from Melbourne close to midnight, said that his flight landed early at about 11.55pm, with disembarkation taking 10 to 15 minutes.

"I didn't think there was anything unusual happening. Everything went smoothly. I'm surprised that the terminal had to be evacuated earlier," he told ST.

Checks showed that at least two eateries at Changi Airport were told by CAG staff to distribute free food and drinks to people affected by the evacuation. 

A 59-year-old part-timer at 1983 Cafe Nanyang, who wanted to be known only as Madam Tay, said that the restaurant had given out food items to about 40 passengers and CAG staff since it reopened at 11pm.

She said: "It's a nice gesture to help those affected and also the staff who have been working so hard. As a Singaporean, I feel proud of how the airport handled the situation."

CAG said it will work with the authorities to investigate the incident, and advised passengers departing or arriving on Wednesday (May 17) to check the Changi Airport website, app or social media channels for the latest information.

At 1.55am, CAG announced on its smartphone app that its airport will resume normal operations at 3am on Wednesday (May 17). It apologised for the inconvenience caused and thanked its passengers for their patience.

Mr Avneesh Mehta, 21, was among passengers who checked in for IndiGo flight 6E54 at about 4am. The flight, which is due to depart Singapore for Chennai at 5.40am, is the first flight departing from T2 since operations resumed.

The Indian national,  who had been in Singapore for a five-day holiday, said: "I'm glad that everything is now in order. I didn't even know there was a fire that caused such a huge impact."


Mr Praveen M S, 32, who works in IT and his wife Priya Praveen, a 27-year-old housewife, at T2 in Changi Airport on Wednesday (May 17). ST PHOTO: NG HUIWEN

32-year-old Praveen MS, who works in IT, said his family only learned about the fire on their way to the airport in a cab. He was sending off his wife, 27-year-old Priya Praveen, and their 14-month son, who were boarding the IndiGo flight to Chennai. 

Mr Praveen said: "Now I can still smell a slight smokey smell, but it doesn't bother me much."