NEW YORK CITY: Unfounded reports of shots fired at New York’s main airport triggered scenes of panic, evacuations and huge flight delays late Sunday (Monday in Manila).
There was no immediate confirmation of injuries or arrests, but Port Authority (PAPD) police evacuated at least two terminals at John F. Kennedy International Airport as a precaution, and gave the all clear shortly after midnight.
Spokesman Joe Pentangelo said Port Authority police had received an ultimately “unfounded” call about shots fired.
A ground stop was in place until 12:30 am (0430 GMT) for “security” reasons, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Around that time, New York Police Department (NYPD) Special Operations Division Chief Harry Wedin said all terminals had been “searched and cleared.”
“All affected terminals will resume operations shortly. No shots were fired,” he added on Twitter.
At Terminal 1, an Agence France-Presse journalist was among passengers stranded on a plane on the tarmac for an hour and a half.
Ultimately, she was only able to leave the airport five hours after her plane landed following a flight from Frankfurt.
After deplaning, hundreds of people queuing to pass through immigration checkpoints were stuck in the area for more than two hours under heavy police presence.
Panic spread quickly through the crowd as police ordered people to lie on the ground, then evacuated them through corridors leading outside to the tarmac.
“Get down on the ground! Down, down!” police officers yelled. At other times, they ordered: “Move, move, move!”
Frightened children cried as people fled to safety.
A German traveler, who only gave her name as Gisela, said a policeman told her “There is an active shooter, run.”
Police prohibited travelers from making phone calls or taking photographs. One man was arrested for trying to capture images of the chaotic scenes.
When the travelers returned to the immigration area, there was renewed panic as armed police ran back and forth.
Some travelers were ordered to hide in immigration booths. Police gave travelers no explanation for the security incident.
One woman sobbed loudly because she lost her nine-year-old child in the commotion.
No evidence of shots
The Port Authority said a preliminary investigation found no shots were fired at JFK and there were no injuries.
“At this time, no gun shells or other evidence of shots fired has been found,” a statement added.
“The terminal was evacuated out of an abundance of caution… There is substantial PAPD and NYPD presence at JFK and LGA (LaGuardia Airport). Investigation continues.”
Wedin said earlier that Port Authority, NYPD and Emergency Service Unit police were clearing Terminal 1 and Terminal 8.
But a pilot on a plane awaiting departure at Terminal 2 said police were sweeping that terminal after it was evacuated.