Hamburg airport evacuation blamed on pepper spray

  • 13/02/2017
Police and emergency rescue teams stand ready at the entrance to Terminal 2 of the airport of Hamburg, Germany, 17 February 2017.
The Hamburg airport was been temporarily evacuated after people reported suffering from breathing difficulties following an apparent gas leak (EPA)

German authorities say the leak of a corrosive substance through the air conditioning system at Hamburg airport was not an attack, but police are investigating the incident that forced the brief closure of the facility.

Hundreds of passengers at Hamburg Airport were evacuated and more than a dozen flights cancelled after some 68 people were injured by a hazardous material that likely spread through the airport's air conditioning system.

The airport said in a statement that police and firefighters concluded in their initial investigation the substance most likely was pepper spray.

Firefighters and ambulances were rushed to the scene after some 50 people at one terminal complained of eye irritation and breathing difficulties.

"I want to explicitly deny ... that this was a terrorist attack. As far as we know it was at no period considered a terrorist attack," Hamburg fire department spokesman Torsten Wessely told a news conference in the northern city.

"A pepper spray-like canister has been found during our investigative searches which might be the source," he added.

He said the substance was spread through the facility's central air conditioning system.

Lightly dressed passengers were rushed outside the terminal in almost freezing temperatures, leaving their coats and jackets behind in the hurry. They were allowed back in shortly after.

A spokeswoman for the airport said flights had resumed.