T2 fire sparks delays at Changi Airport
Airport terminal closed for four hours with flights diverted to T3 after evacuation
As fires go, it was small and easily put out with a hose reel jet.
But it sparked a major disruption because it happened in the departure hall of one of the world's busiest airports.
As thick smoke filtered out of air vents, the authorities decided to fully evacuate Changi Airport Terminal 2 (T2) yesterday evening, resulting in its closure for more than four hours.
Two people were taken to hospital for observation and four were treated at the Terminal 3 clinic, the Changi Airport Group (CAG) said in a statement at close to midnight.
It added that the fire started in a room holding air-conditioning equipment.
T2's closure caused flights to be grounded before they were moved to T3 - with thousands of passengers affected as flights were delayed. CAG said about 40 flights were affected.
SBS Transit also ordered its bus services 24, 27 and 53 to skip the bus stop at T2.
The police said in a statement on Facebook that they were alerted to the fire at 5.43pm.
CAG said the fire alarm at T2 went off at about 5.40pm after smoke was found coming through the air vents. The terminal was then evacuated.
Mr Faruk Ali, 38, a driver, was having his dinner at a restaurant in T2 when he heard the fire alarm.
"I didn't pay attention to it until I saw thick black smoke - which appeared out of nowhere suddenly - filling up the terminal," said Mr Faruk, who called The New Paper hotline.
"Then there was the announcement for everyone to evacuate, and people started moving. It was a little chaotic as everyone was panicky."
Mr Faruk said everyone was guided to the evacuation area beside the carpark outside of the terminal, where they remained for about an hour.
At 6.40pm, CAG said it had identified the cause of the fire, which was under control, but added that flights remained affected.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said in a statement on Facebook that it was a small fire, which was extinguished with a hose reel jet.
CAG said in an update that all departing and arriving flights at T2 had been moved to T3, with "significant delays" expected.
The delays left many passengers confused.
Thai student Chompisa Amatayu, 18, who was supposed to fly home at 10pm, arrived in T2 at about 6pm to be greeted by a large crowd outside the airport.
"There was a strong smell of smoke in the air, and everyone was really confused," she said.
"I do feel frustrated at what's happening, but I think safety comes first, so I can understand why this needs to be done."
CAG said it activated additional manpower and resources to cope with flights moved to T3, and its staff and partners helped direct passengers.
It shared updated flight information on all airport channels and co-ordinated with regional airports to adjust departure times of flights to Changi to manage the arrival load.
When TNP arrived at the airport before 8pm, traffic to T2 had been blocked off, resulting in long jams as travellers made their way to other terminals.
Long queues formed at T3, where departing passengers had been diverted to.
Changi Airport staff were seen at T2 directing and ushering people to T3's holding area, which was packed with affected passengers and their luggage.
CAG said SCDF gave the all-clear at 10pm for flight operations to resume progressively at T2.
It apologised for the inconvenience caused, but workplace safety and health consultant Lee Wee Kiat of Bibline Consulting said the authorities had made the right call to evacuate T2 as lives were at stake.
"In most cases of a fire, people are overcome by the smoke, not the flames.
"There may be disruptions and inconvenience, but the primary concern is the safety of people," he said.