London City Airport, the only airport within the city, was evacuated on 21st October, after passengers waiting for flights complained of breathing difficulties and dizziness. Fire alarms prompted the evacuation, and 26 people were treated by paramedics on-scene. Two people were hospitalised, but there was no lasting damage to anyone involved.

Passengers wait outside the terminal building at London City Airport following a fire alert (Chris Daly/@Guru_Chris/Twitter/PA)

(Chris Daly/@Guru_Chris/Twitter/PA)

The above picture from twitter shows passengers who were evacuated air-side onto an apron. Quite telling that I can’t see a single passenger in that photo who isn’t on their phone. The age of technology is more obvious now than ever!

In total, 500 passengers were evacuated, causing chaos to airline time-tables and delays all-round. This incident comes just days after a terror alert at the nearby North Greenwich Tube Station.

The cause

Upon further investigation, police found a canister of tear gas in the terminal building, which may have accidentally been let off. Interestingly enough, the tear gas was non-police-issue, meaning that an outsider brought it in. The police are however treating the incident as non-suspicious. It could well be that a passenger discarded it before boarding.

the aftermath

London City Airport, which carries over 4.3 million passengers from its one short runway (1,500m), was re-opened at 7pm after thorough ventilation, and confirmation that levels of the CS spray were now undetectable. The incident brings to light the debate on terror-threat protocol. Many people ask if we are too hyper-vigilant to threats, sacrificing our time and money as a result, while others cite the increased activity of extremist groups as the exact reason why we should remain that way.

Do you think a full-airport evacuation was an over-reaction? Do we need to maintain this level of vigilance in response to these incidents?