Passengers arriving at JFK from Turkey horrified by suicide attack at airport

Passengers leaving the Ataturk International airport after the terror attack. People arriving in New York from Turkey barely missed the attack and heard about it in flight. Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters New York, United States Jun 29, 2016, 05.12 AM (IST)
Passengers, who arrived to JFK airport in New York from Istanbul, said on Tuesday they were shocked to learn about an attack on the Turkish airport that killed 36 and injured 150 more, but they were lucky to have missed the incident.

Three suicide bombers opened fire then blew themselves up at Istanbul international airport on Tuesday in what Turkey's Prime Minister said appeared to have been an attack by Islamic State militants.

One attacker opened fire in the departure hall with an automatic rifle, sending passengers diving for cover and trying to flee, before all three blew themselves up in or around the arrival hall a floor below, witnesses and officials said.

Passengers said they learned about the attacks in flight, a short time after they passed through the same areas of the airport.

"I can't believe it that, you know, I feel like, how are we alive? If the flight was delayed two hours, we would have been exactly on that spot. Looking at the pictures, we were right there. So, it's just horrific. It's just unbelievable, and, just speechless really. It keeps happening and happening. It just happened in Belgium. It just happened just now in Istanbul, so I can't even fly anymore. I'm like so scared. Everybody in flight - the same way. I mean, it's just disbelief. I mean we're so lucky we got away with it, it looks like," a passenger named Adam told NBC.

Three women, who were travelling together from Barcelona, said they could have been caught in the attacks had they missed their connection in Istanbul.

"We were running from Barcelona, got to Istanbul, got there pretty late, almost missed the flight, got a little nervous about almost missing the flight, and then saw the news on the plane, and you know it... we're really happy to be home," one of the women said.

One of her travelling companions said she thought security in Istanbul's Ataturk airport was thorough.

"From a connecting flight on an international flight - we went through two additional checkpoints just to get to our gate," she said.

"We went through metal detectors, our bags went through, then our passports were checked.... the security seemed good," she said.

Turkish police fired shots to try to stop two of the attackers just before they reached a security checkpoint at the arrivals hall, but they detonated their explosives, a Turkish official said.

Istanbul's Ataturk airport partially opened early today morning.

Passengers traveling outbound from Istanbul are being allowed to enter the airport after undertaking security checks. However, the international arrivals section in the lower part of the airport remains closed, as several emergency vehicles maintain a security presence outside the terminal building.

The information board inside the airport showed that about one third of scheduled flights have been canceled with a host of others delayed.