Operations at Larnaca Airport are back to normal after a bomb scare on Tuesday led to the temporary evacuation of all passengers and staff from the terminal.
According to the authorities, at 9.00am Hermes Airports Operator call centre received a phone call from an unidentified man warning, in English with a heavy foreign accent, that a bomb was ready to go off in the airport in half an hour later. Police were notified around five minutes later when the centre received a second call from the same man repeating the message.
Police leadership then gave the order to evacuate the 300 odd passengers and staff members from Larnaca Airport into the car park while officers and sniffer dogs conducted a search for suspicious packages and activity.
At around this time – half an hour after the first call was received – Paphos Airport received a call from the same number warning that a bomb was going to be detonated. Police officers began conducting a search of Paphos Airport as a precautionary measure but no order was given to evacuate passengers.
The alarm was called off at both airports and dismissed as a prank at 10.30am after the search failed to reveal any threats. Bomb disposal experts were briefly called in to inspect a suspicious package found in the toilets of Larnaca Airport’s arrival lounge which turned out to be a door handle wrapped in gaffa tape.
“After evaluating the information and inspecting both airports the crisis management team assessed that the call was a hoax,” the Ministry of Communications said in a statement.
Two flights at Larnaca Airport experienced slight delays while Paphos Airport was not affected.
Police confirmed that investigations are now underway to identify the prankster who is believed to have made the calls on a prepaid phone card.
The security alert occurred ahead of US Vice President Joe Biden’s arrival in Cyprus on Wednesday where he is scheduled to take part in a series of energy and settlement related talks.
Speaking to the media yesterday Minister of Communications Marios Demetriades said the hoax is likely related to Biden’s visit.
Late last night police arrested a 56-year-old taxi driver from Strovolos who was being questioned in relation to the bomb hoax.