Changi Airport T2 reopens for flights, but some eateries still shut

Changi Airport T2 reopens for flights, but some eateries still shut
Passengers entering the departure gate at the Departure Hall of Changi Airport Terminal 2, on May 17, 2017. Photo: Robin Choo/TODAY

Changi Airport T2 reopens for flights, but some eateries still shut

SINGAPORE — By daybreak on Wednesday (May 17), operations at Changi Airport Terminal 2 resumed, with flights departing as scheduled.

However, some businesses remained shut, in the aftermath of a fire which broke out on Tuesday evening and led to T2’s unprecedented shutdown, with operations back to normal about nine hours after the fire alarm went off.

While people visited retail stores and some relaxed at cafes, Indian fast-food restaurant Chutney Mary — located on level three of the building — remained closed due to water leakage and power outage.

The restaurant’s manager, Mr Mohan Hase, said they discovered that power was cut at 10.30pm on Tuesday after employees were allowed to enter the premises. The electricity supply had not been restored when TODAY visited the eatery at about 10am on Wednesday. Workers could be seen mopping the floors and contractors were trying to contain the leak.

Mr Hase, 33, said that water from sprinklers activated on the fifth floor of the building had leaked through the ceiling into the restaurant’s kitchen and dining areas. He estimated the restaurant’s losses at S$8,000, as there were no customers and food had been damaged.

“Because we had no electricity, the fridge was affected. We had to throw away everything, frozen meats, vegetables, bread and cheese,” said Mr Hase.

By 5pm, the eatery had restarted operations, even though there was still water leakage in the kitchen.

Chutney Mary’s next-door neighbour, Western eatery Nandos, also experienced similar issues and remained closed on Wednesday.

Its business development executive, Mr Ng Kok Leng, said he was shocked to find water dripping from the ceiling near the cashier’s station and the back of the dining area when he entered the eatery at 8am on Wednesday.

The eatery’s feature wall, made of sand, had also been damaged by seeping water. To prevent further damage, Nandos’ employees covered dining tables and chairs with plastic sheets.

Mr Ng, 40, who was waiting for the insurer to determine the restaurant’s losses, said Nandos is unlikely to open on Thursday, too.

The fire which broke out in a room holding air-conditioning equipment at around 5.40pm on Tuesday led to an unprecedented evacuation at T2 and thousands of passengers affected.

Three people suffering from smoke inhalation were sent to Changi General Hospital, said the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

In response to TODAY’s queries on its standard operating procedures in such situations, the Changi Airport Group (CAG) would only say Wednesday that it conducts drills “regularly for various scenarios” and investigations are being conducted with the authorities. It could not reply to requests for elaboration by press time. Nevertheless, it said about 40 flights were affected and a few were cancelled as a result of the fire. Affected passengers were given food vouchers and accommodation by the respective airlines.

At about 10pm on Tuesday, more than four hours after the fire alarm went off at 5.40pm, the SCDF gave the all-clear for T2 to reopen. The airport said later that normal operations at Terminal 2 resumed at 3am on Wednesday.

Flights were resumed progressively overnight. The last delayed departure was a Lufthansa flight which headed for Frankfurt at 3.58am on Wednesday. And 12 hours after the fire started, the first scheduled flight to depart T2 on time — following the disruption — took off at 5.40am on Wednesday for the Indian city of Chennai.

Meanwhile, many passengers at T2 did not sense anything was amiss at the terminal, with some even unaware that there had been a fire there less than 24 hours earlier.

Belgian national Katherine Vandevelde, 25, who was catching a flight back home, said that she was surprised to learn about the fire as the environment at T2 seemed “normal”.

“I did not know they shut down the entire terminal. But I think they did the right thing because the fire could spread. I think any other airport would have done this.”

Singaporean Daniel See, 26, who was heading to Bangkok, said he had initially wondered whether his flight would be delayed. “But I’m not surprised that they resumed operations quickly because Changi Airport is known for its efficiency,” said the marketing specialist.