Sydney Tower evacuated earlier today due to smoke

Image Source: SMH/Wolter Peeters

A complete ground stop was put in place at Sydney airport today after the control tower was evacuated.

The tower was evacuated at approxomately 11:40am Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time (AEDT) after smoke was detected on the ground floor of the tower. Some flights were diverted to Canberra or Melbourne while others returned to their point of origin.

Firefighters discovered the cause of the smoke was a malfunctioning battery pack in a computer back-up system. “Firefighters used carbon dioxide extinguishers on the battery system to cool it down,” Inspector Bryce Jonas from Fire and Rescue NSW told the Sydney Morning Herald. Inspector Jonas told News Ltd, “regardless of how important their job is of running the airport, human lives are much more important. They did the right thing.”

Approximately 20 employees were given the all clear to return to the tower at approximately 12:30pm AEDT with arrivals being allowed to land at a slower rate with the assistance of air traffic controllers from the neighbouring state of Victoria. Departures began leaving at 1.20pm AEDT. The evacuation resulted in delays of up to 60 mins for domestic flights and up to 80 minutes for International flights.

The Sydney – Melbourne route is the 2nd busiest domestic route in the world.