London airport evacuated after ‘CS gas’ incident

Passengers queue outside the entrance to London's City Airport on Oct 21, 2016 after an evacuation.
Passengers queue outside the entrance to London's City Airport on Oct 21, 2016 after an evacuation.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - A suspected CS tear gas spray was found at London City Airport after passengers and staff were evacuated on Friday (Oct 21) following a “chemical incident” that left 27 travellers feeling unwell and halted flights.

London’s innermost airport re-opened three hours after the incident was first reported, after 500 people were evacuated and several passengers treated for breathing difficulties.

A search of the airport “led to the discovery of what is believed to be a CS gas or spray”, Scotland Yard police headquarters said in a statement.

“Whilst the cause of the incident has not yet been confirmed, officers are investigating if it was the result of an accidental discharge of this canister.

“Officers are investigating whether it may have been discarded by a passenger prior to check-in.

“There have been no arrests and enquiries continue.”

The London Ambulance Service said two casualties were taken to hospital and 25 treated at the scene for breathing difficulties.

David Morris, 28, said he was at the check-in desk for his flight to Edinburgh.

"I was talking and started to cough to the point I was not able to keep talking,” he said, calling the situation “quite scary”.

“Within two minutes, they shouted for everyone to get out,” he said, with check-in staff jumping over their desks.

“Everyone was shouting and rushing towards the door.”

The London Fire Brigade was called to “reports of a chemical incident” at the airport in east London’s Docklands, which caters mainly for business travellers and short-haul flights.

It said the terminal was “ventilated, searched and declared safe”, adding that “no elevated readings” had been registered during the search.

Several incoming flights from destinations such as Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris were diverted to other airports or cancelled.

The airport said there would be continued disruption to flights and urged passengers to contact their airlines.

Spanish businessman Fernando Bausa was hoping to travel to Madrid.

“Our flight has been cancelled, after waiting here more than three hours. Now we are trying to know what’s going to happen with us, if there will be another flight tomorrow,” he told AFP.

Caitlan Russell, a South African travelling to the Netherlands, said: “When I arrived, it was just people standing around, with medical blankets on, and lots of ambulances, emergency services.”

German tourist Anne Kunz was flying to Luxembourg.

“The help we received was great. We received blankets, coffee and cold drinks,” she said.

London City Airport is the 13th busiest airport in Britain, with a total of 4.3 million passengers last year.