OR Tambo airport, Johannesburg, was shut down on Monday, February 19, 2018, over a bomb scare.
It was gathered that passengers were forced to wait for two hours to return after South African officials identified a bag believed to housing a bomb.
The official police version of events confirmed that a suspicious piece of luggage was reported at one of the terminal buildings, which lead to a total evacuation.
Leigh Gunkel-Keuler, Airport spokesperson was able to confirm this.
Some travellers reported hearing loud bangs whilst passing through the airport. However, this was not related to the item found by airport staff. In fact, it would seem like miscommunication has done nothing to help the situation.
@ewnreporter Any news on whats just happened at OR Tambo Int, about 12m ago, there we hear there was an explosion or gun shots?
— Carolina Mannering (@piojitacaro) February 19, 2018
A police training drill seems to be responsible for the noise. Part of the terminal was being used to conduct a hostage scenario and looks to have taken everyone by surprise:
— Swiftie Be (@StephanieBe) February 19, 2018
Please don’t panic if you are near or at OR Tambo International – police are doing a simulation of a hostage situation. It is an exercise.
— EWN Traffic (@EWNTraffic) February 19, 2018
Although, one has to wonder about the timekeeping skills of our authorities. If this drill were to take place at its scheduled time, there might have been less panic. The message certainly didn’t reach a panicked public, and those reported bangs created a perfect storm of panic and paranoia.
The airport has since re-opened after the suspicious item was cleared from harm’s way. Gunkel-Keuler also stated that the canine unit were called upon to detect if there was anything explosive in the bag.
The airport’s international arrivals hall was evacuated around 0915 GMT after the errant baggage was spotted and airport users were unable to re-enter until after 1115 GMT.
The statement reads, “To ensure the safety of passengers and customers in the airport terminal building, people were evacuated from the area.
“The police service has now provided airport management with the assurance that passengers and customers can now return to the airport terminal building.
“The incident caused delays to several flights although the airport had largely returned to normal operation.
“We apologise to clients, passengers, retail concessionaires and all other stakeholders for the inconvenience and ask that they plan accordingly.”
More than 20.6 million passengers use the airport every year and 41 airlines serve the facility according to its operator, Airports Company South Africa.
Read more at The South African