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False shooting report at JFK could have been 'people clapping as they watched Olympics'

The Port Authority said a preliminary investigation found no shots were fired and there were no injuries.

File photo of JFK Airport in 2014.
File photo of JFK Airport in 2014.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

UNFOUNDED REPORTS OF shots fired at New York’s main airport triggered scenes of panic, massive evacuations and huge delays late last night.

There was no immediate confirmation of injuries or arrests, but Port Authority police evacuated at least two terminals at John F Kennedy International Airport out of precaution.

Spokesman Joe Pentangelo said Port Authority police had received an ultimately “unfounded” call of shots fired.

An official told NBC News that cheering, clapping and banging from people watching the Olympics may have been misinterpreted as a fight and gunshots.

A ground stop was in place until 12.30am (5.30am Irish time) for “security” reasons, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Around that time, New York Police Department Special Operations Division Chief Harry Wedin said all terminals had been “searched and cleared”.

“All affected terminals will resume operations shortly. No shots were fired,” he added on Twitter.

The Port Authority also said a preliminary investigation found no shots were fired at JFK and there were no injuries.

“At this time, no gun shells or other evidence of shots fired has been found,” a statement added.

The terminal was evacuated out of an abundance of caution … There is substantial PAPD and NYPD presence at JFK and LGA. Investigation continues.

Wedin said earlier that Port Authority, NYPD and Emergency Service Unit police were clearing Terminal 1 and Terminal 8.

But a pilot on a plane awaiting departure at Terminal 2 said police were sweeping that terminal after it was evacuated.

At Terminal 1, an AFP journalist was among passengers stranded on a plane on the tarmac for an-hour-and-a-half.

Hundreds of people queuing to pass through immigration checkpoints were stuck in the area for more than two hours under heavy police presence.

Panic spread quickly through the crowd as police ordered people to lie on the ground, then evacuated them outside on the tarmac before making them pass through a corridor.

“Get down on the ground!” police officers yelled. “Move, move, move!”

Police prohibited travellers from making phone calls or taking photographs. One man was arrested for trying to capture images of the chaotic scenes.

When the travellers returned to the immigration area, there was renewed panic as armed police ran back and forth. Some travellers were ordered to hide in immigration booths. Police gave travellers no explanation for the security incident.

© – AFP 2016

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