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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

‘Mentally ill man’ behind airport chaos

Police in Trondheim said that a man who’s suffering psychiatric problems was the one who called in a bomb threat on Monday morning that shut down Trondheim’s airport at Værnes for more than five hours. The closure severely disrupted the travel plans of as many as 5,000 people.

The airport could finally open again late Monday afternoon but officials warned it would take hours before flights could get back on schedule. First they needed to get all the thousands of passengers and airport employees who were evacuated to a nearby hotel back through security checkpoints at the airport. Flights that had landed earlier in the day but weren’t allowed to approach the terminal building would also need to get back into position, and then there would a queue for flights taking off.

Disruption nationwide
Avinor, the state agency that runs most of Norway’s airports, warned that huge delays loomed, and that many flights would have to be cancelled. Traffic couldn’t start up again until after 4pm, and the closure in Trondheim also disrupted air travel around the country.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) reported that they were setting up extra ticket counters for passengers and aimed to get most stranded passengers on flights throughout the course of the evening.

Marit Stigen, sheriff of Stjørdal where the airport is located, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that police had been able to trace the call with the bomb threat to a “mentally unstable” man in his 30s who has a police record. The man also sent an e-mail to a local newspaper in Trondheim confirming that he had set off the bomb alarm.

No sign of actual explosives
Two bomb squads from the Norwegian military that were flown in to Trondheim searched the terminal with specially trained dogs and Stigen said they found no trace of any explosives.

The bomb threat set off a major police and military response and raises new questions about the frequency of mentally ill persons being involved in serious crimes or public disruption in Norway. The man had not been jailed as of Monday afternoon and Stigen said his fate would hinge on a police investigation that likely would involved medical consultation. He was expected to be charged with making false threats.

Stigen said she could understand that thousands of persons were frustrated over disrupted travel “but safety is the most important.” The bomb threat was taken seriously, she said, noting, though, that the police reaction would be subject to evaluation. Berglund




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