NEW YORK (AFP) – Unfounded reports of shots fired at New York’s main airport triggered scenes of panic, massive evacuations and huge delays late Sunday.
There was no immediate confirmation of injuries or arrests, but Port Authority police evacuated at least two terminals at John F. Kennedy International Airport out of precaution.
Spokesman Joe Pentangelo said Port Authority police had received an ultimately “unfounded” call of 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 Special Operations Division Chief Harry Wedin said all terminals had been “searched & cleared.”
“All affected terminals will resume operations shortly. No shots were fired,” he added on Twitter.
The Port Authority also 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. 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.
At Terminal 1, an AFP journalist was among passengers stranded on a plane on the tarmac for an hour and a half.
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 outside on the tarmac before making them pass through a corridor.
“Get down on the ground!” police officers yelled. “Move, move move!”
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.