Pepper spray ‘prankster’ may have sparked Germany airport alarm | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Pepper spray ‘prankster’ may have sparked Germany airport alarm

world Updated: Feb 13, 2017 10:10 IST

Firefighters with multiple vehicles stand in front of Hamburg airport as passengers leave the terminal on Sunday in Hamburg, northern Germany, as emergency services evacuated the airport.(AFP Photo)

German emergency services temporarily evacuated Hamburg airport on Sunday and treated almost 70 people after an irritant gas was released in the building – probably by a “prankster” using pepper spray, firefighters said.

The northern city’s airport was closed and 13 flights delayed or diverted between 1130 and 1245 GMT after people reported an unusual smell, respiratory ailments, nausea and stinging eyes.

Firefighters later said they had found an empty cartridge that was thought to have contained pepper spray, which is sold in Germany for personal self-defence.

A spokesman of the Hamburg fire department told media that an unknown “prankster” was thought to have released the gas, which then spread via the hall’s ventilation system.

After similar incidents recently at local schools, “it has obviously become fashionable to empty this type of cartridge” in public places, fire department official Norbert Kusch told national news agency DPA.

Authorities said they ruled out an act of terrorism, DPA added.

Firefighters take care of a person on a stretcher inside Hamburg airport on February 12, 2017 after people reported an unusual smell as well as respiratory ailments and watering eyes. (AFP)

Sixty-eight people were examined by paramedics and nine of them were taken to hospital.

Hundreds more had to wait outside in freezing winter temperatures for more than an hour, while subway trains to the airport were also halted.

Maik Lewerenz of the federal police office at the airport said “a bad smell has spread in the security area, where passengers and their carry-on luggage are checked.

“A number of people complained about eye and respiratory irritation,” he said.

Hamburg airport is Germany’s fifth largest, with just over one million passengers a month.