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Mystery Odour shuts down Hamburg Airport


No one wants to see news of security alerts at airports, railway stations or any other public place. However, it is reassuring to see that, when emergencies occur the staff and management at these sites, have pre-prepared action plans in place to deal quickly and efficiently when emergencies arise (and are well trained in the procedures).
A case in point is an emergency that occurred yesterday at Hamburg Airport in Germany.Authorities are still investigating the incident, but this is what we can gather so far:
  • The alert came to light when people in the airport started to complain of nausea, burning eyes, and breathing problems. A total of sixty-eight individuals, including staff and airport workers, were taken ill, and nine were hospitalized.
  • The incident appeared to be centered on the airport's central security checkpoint, which had to be closed for an hour. Hundreds of people were evacuated from the airport, and a total of 14 flights had to be canceled (both departures and arrivals). Flight operations were suspended from 12.10-1.40pm.
  • As normal when there are such closures, this led to delays for passengers in the afternoon after re-opening. Some flights were also diverted to other airports. Also, many passengers (some dressed for tropical holidays) had to wait outside the airport in freezing temperatures (reportedly up to minus four degrees).
  • Special casualty zones were set up outside where doctors could examine unwell travelers. As always with these incidents (which are practiced for regularly) the Fire Brigade took over operational control of the Terminal.  


  • The cause of the illnesses is still under investigation, but it is said that an irritant gas was released into the atmosphere. That irritant is being suggested to have been pepper spray which may have been placed in an air duct.A canister has subsequently been found; some reports suggest it was in a rubbish bin near the security area, which is used by passengers to discard liquid bottles which, as usual, are not allowed departure side.


There were striking similarities with an incident in October at London's City airport when 27 people were taken ill, and two hospitalized. After a three-hour inquiry, emergency services there concluded that the incident was due to a passengers discarded pepper spray.It really does beg the question what on earth people are doing bringing pepper spray into an airport ?.
Neither incident is being treated as terrorist related. But such events should give assurance to the traveling public that you are in very safe hands when you enter an airport.