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Terminal fear

On Friday, two gunshots were heard at IGI airport’s departure terminal. Everybody thought it was Mumbai revisited. Sidhartha Roy reports. See graphicsGoing forward

delhi Updated: Dec 06, 2008 00:38 IST
Sidhartha Roy

Two gunshot sounds was all it took to send Indira Gandhi International Airport into a tizzy in the wee hours of Friday. Passengers panicked and ran for cover, security personnel went into an overdrive, the airport was shut and flights got delayed for hours.

As Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel deployed near the departure terminal heard two gunshots, they took their positions and all entry points to the airport were closed.

Midnight terror scare
1.10 am: CISF guards posted near Gate no. 4 of Terminal 2 Departure area of the airport hear two gunshots. Passengers asked to crouch or lie down.
1.15 am: All entry points closed. Vehicles are thoroughly searched.
1.25 am: A Qualis tries to enter the arrival area from the wrong side. Asked to stop. It flees.
2 am: After thorough combing, all-clear given. Operations resume.

An announcement on the public information system asked passengers to lie down or crouch wherever they were as a terror attack was suspected to have occurred outside. Panicked passengers, who too had heard the sounds, started running for cover

Eyewitnesses said the power supply to Terminal 2 was also shut down for some time. Leena Vashisht, an employee with Asiana Airlines, said everyone was on the floor and many passengers were also crying. “After the terror attacks in Mumbai, you never know what can happen where,” she said.

As the airport completely shut down and all gates were closed, passengers were shut inside the departure and arrival terminals. “It was as maddening as it was scary,” said Bhupinder Singh, who had come to see off a friend.

Gripped with fear of a terror attack, a woman passenger climbed on to the baggage conveyor and went right up to the baggage collection point, where security personnel stopped her. “The conveyor was not stopped as it might have proven difficult to reach the passenger,” said a spokesman of airport operator Delhi International Airport Ltd. (DIAL).

“All passengers were frisked again and baggage was reopened,” said Manoj Baweja, an employee of Emirates. “There were no operations for about half-an-hour.”

Things started getting back to normal only after 1.45 am but most flights, like those of British Airways and Swiss Air, got delayed by over two hours.