Long delays at Orlando airport after battery explodes in bag, causing panic and evacuation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 November, 2017, 9:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 November, 2017, 9:17am

Travellers at Orlando International Airport faced long delays on Friday night after a battery exploded in a bag, causing people to panic and the airport to be evacuated.

After the incident, flights were grounded. Passengers were asked to disembark planes and people waiting at their gates were forced to pass through TSA security screening again.

A lithium camera battery overheated and exploded in the main terminal, which sparked hysteria among travellers, Orlando Police Department said, adding there was “no danger to the public” and “NO shots had been fired”.

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In a tweet, authorities said the camera bag was “smouldering”.

Airport spokesman Rod Johnson said the noise was reported soon after 5pm in front of the security checkpoint to gates 1-59. He said a full ground-stop was issued and passengers should check with their airlines for any delays.

The checkpoints were still closed and Johnson said passengers who were at their gates were being brought back out into the main terminal to be screened again.

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Terminals A and B were evacuated at the time of the incident. Johnson said airport officials will resume normal operations once authorities determined that the checkpoints could safely be reopened.

Mike Robinson was at the airport and getting on a flight to Dallas when the incident happened.

“It was pandemonium,” he said. When the noise went off, Robinson said, people sprinted past the security checkpoint to take cover.

“Now, they’re bringing people out of their gates, offloading them to be screened again,” he said.

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“There’s thousands and thousands of people … I look back and I see a sea of people.”

He said at least 10 bomb-sniffing dogs were taken into the terminal.

Robinson said his flight was at 7.30pm, but it would most likely be delayed.

Visitors quickly posted on social media that they had fled the airport and feared for their lives. While rumours circulated online, the police posted a message on Twitter saying there was no danger.

“There has been NO shooting at Orlando International Airport. There was a loud sound that startled people, but no shots fired, no danger to public,” it said.