Thousands of stranded travellers have landed
at Canadian airports after their international flights were diverted
transportation officials have shut down all airports in Canada
indefinitely to make room for the U.S.-bound international flights.
All domestic and international flights have been grounded as a
precautionary measure after a series of attacks on high-profile
targets in the United States. Only military, police or humanitarian
flights are permitted to fly.
The United States Federal Aviation Authority ordered all
international flights to the United States to be diverted to the
nearest airport. There were close to 500 aircraft affected. About
250 returned to their point of departure, while Canada received
close to 200 rerouted planes.
Airports throughout Atlantic Canada have already received dozens
of flights including Moncton, St. John's, Halifax, Goose Bay,
Stephenville, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg,
Edmonton, Calgary, Abbotsford and Whitehorse.
Halifax airport says
they currently have 44 planes on the ground and about 7,000 to 8,000
passengers. The RCMP is sweeping all of the planes and the
passengers' luggage after which they will be transported to large
sports facilities in the city for the night.
The RCMP originally said it would take up to 90 minutes to sweep
each plane and process passengers, but the enormous size of the
effort has sped up the process. Four planes are now being emptied
each hour. Officials say everyone should be off the planes by 5 a.m.
Some weary-looking passengers leaving the planes were just happy
they were safe.
"We're alive, we're safe, our prayers go out to the other
people," said Matthew Sakalski of Florida.
Newfoundland expects to host anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000
people in St. John's, Gander and Stephenville. St. John's airport is
operating at double capacity with 27 wide-body jets sitting on the
They will be put up in hotels, conference centres and private
homes. Officials in Gander say they've had a tremendous response
from people living in the area.
"People are coming in
with blankets and water and walking into the office volunteering
their time," said Maj. Alfred Richardson.
Many people in Toronto are also offering their homes to
travellers stranded at Pearson Airport.
"All Canadian airspace has been closed other than for inbound
overseas flights," said Calgary Airport Authority spokesperson Mike
Aviation officials in Whitehorse had a false alarm after a South
Korean 747 was intercepted over Alaska and escorted to the airport
by U.S. and Canadian jet fighters.
Officials believed it could have been a hijacked aircraft, but it
turned out to be a redirected airliner running low on fuel.
Jet fighters circled Whitehorse as the plane was inspected.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien has condemned what he called a
"cowardly attack" south of the border and pledged full assistance to
the U.S., including medical support and a home for the displaced
travellers. He also assured Canadians to remain calm, noting that
the government was increasing security.
Written by CBC News Online staff