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Fire at Changi T2 leaves thousands stranded

SINGAPORE — A fire which broke out in a room holding air-conditioning equipment led to an unprecedented evacuation at Changi Airport Terminal 2 (T2) on Tuesday (May 16), with thousands of passengers stranded as about 40 flights from at least 13 airlines were affected.

Fire at Changi T2 leaves thousands stranded

According to CAG, the fire broke out at about 5:40pm on Tuesday (May 16). The fire alarm was activated due to smoke coming through the air vents. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY

SINGAPORE — A  fire which broke out in a room holding air-conditioning equipment led to an unprecedented evacuation at Changi Airport Terminal 2 (T2) on Tuesday (May 16), with thousands of passengers stranded as about 40 flights from at least 13 airlines were affected.

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

Four others received medical attention at the airport clinic, said Changi Airport Group (CAG) in a statement on Tuesday night. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

At about 10pm, more than four hours after the fire alarm went off at 5.40pm due to smoke emerging from the terminal’s air vents, the SCDF gave the all-clear for T2 to reopen, and flight operations were to resume progressively, CAG added. In an update, the airport said that normal operations at Terminal 2 resumed at 3am on Wednesday. The first departing flight from T2 was an IndiGo flight at 5.40am.

The fire, which the SCDF described as “small”, was put out in about an hour by firefighters. However, the terminal remained closed, partly due to the lingering smoke from the fire. Bus services to the airport were also affected.

As of 10pm, the T2 departure hall was still visibly filled with a thin cloud of white smoke, accompanied by a burning smell.

In its first post on the fire published on its Facebook page, Changi Airport said T2 was evacuated after the fire alarm was activated at 5.40pm. It took about an hour for the evacuation to be completed. At about 6.45pm, Changi Airport said the situation was under control, and that the cause of the fire had been identified. It added, however, that flight operations at T2 were affected, and that passengers should expect “significant delays”.

At about 8.10pm, Changi Airport said the terminal remained closed “in the interest of ensuring safety”. All departing and arriving flights at T2 were moved to T3 until further notice.

When TODAY arrived at the airport at 7pm, the area outside the T2 departure hall was packed with hundreds of anxious passengers whose flights were supposed to leave soon. Changi Airport staff manned the entrances, calling for calm and persuading passengers to head to T3 to await further instructions.

When further instructions were finally given at 9pm, the T3 arrival hall was packed with more than 1,000 passengers. TODAY understands that the flights departing from, and arriving at, T3 faced slight delays as well, as the airport had moved the bulk of its operations there.

Businesswoman Norren Mohd Noor, 48, said in a telephone interview that she had been left stranded at T3 for about three hours, since her flight from London touched down at Changi Airport at about 6pm. She was supposed to go to T2 to catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur, which was scheduled to depart at 9.15pm, but was told that the terminal had been closed.

Saying that she had yet to receive any updates about her flight, Ms Norren described T3 as being overcrowded. She added that airport staff could be seen distributing food and drinks to affected passengers.

Earlier, Malaysian national Serene Yap, who was waiting for her flight at T2, told TODAY that the alarm sounded for about 15 minutes before airport personnel evacuated people.

The 52-year-old human resource consultant was in Singapore on a business trip and was going back to Kuala Lumpur. She said: “The situation is not really chaotic, but passengers are confused because we don’t know what’s going on.”

In its statement, CAG stressed that the safety of passengers and visitors was its “immediate priority”.

Additional manpower and resources were activated to facilitate the flights moved to T3, including for check-in and baggage handling duties. Airport staff and airline partners also helped to direct passengers.

CAG added that updated flight information was shared across all airport channels, and on Changi Airport’s social media accounts. It also coordinated with regional airports to help manage the arrival load. 

CAG advised passengers departing or arriving at the airport today to check the airport’s website, app or social media channels for the latest information. 

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