Water leak floods JFK Airport baggage claim, forces evacuation

Workers sweep water from a floor of the arrivals area at John F. Kennedy International Airport's terminal 4, in New York on January 7, 2018. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

A water leak flooded a baggage claim area at JFK International Airport in New York on Sunday afternoon, soaking stranded travelers’ luggage and shutting down international flights into Terminal 4.

Officials ordered a partial evacuation of the terminal, the major arrival point for international travelers, according to a Sunday afternoon tweet from the airport.

The water leak occurred at a bad time for the airport, which was jammed with frustrated travelers whose flights were delayed or canceled by the bitter cold that has gripped the East Coast. Passengers reported spending hours sitting on the tarmac before deplaning. Luggage covered large sections of the airport floor as passengers waited for flights.

The temperature was around 15 degrees when the flooding started about 1:30 p.m. Video showed standing water in a large section of the terminal and water cascading down a wall in an arrival area.

Power went out in parts of Terminal 4. Conveyer belts stopped working on some luggage carousels and travelers were instructed to pick up their bags in another part of the terminal. The arrival area was cordoned off while employees swept water off the floor.

The New York City Fire Department responded, but no cause of the leak has been provided. No injuries were reported.

Around 3:30 p.m., the airport announced via Twitter that international flights into Terminal 4 had been shut down. Departures were not affected. JFK advised passengers to check with their airline prior to arriving at the airport.

Terminal 4 is "the major gateway for international arrivals at JFK airport. It serves as a major international hub for Delta Airlines," the airport website says.

The travelers were stuck at the airport because of the winter storm that socked the East Coast.

By about 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday, 50 flights out of JFK had been canceled and about 200 delayed, according to Flight Aware, a flight tracking website. On Saturday alone, 94 flights were canceled at JFK, the New York Port Authority said.

Travelers had complained about delays and baggage problems even before the leak occurred.

Emillio Mesa traveled from Los Angeles to New York City and said he was frustrated at not seeing his luggage for 13 hours.

"The luggage pile just keeps growing," he said. "It's a fire hazard now. New flights are coming in and there's no space!" he posted on Instagram.

The New York Port Authority issued statements via Twitter Sunday afternoon saying the FAA has shut down international arrivals at Terminal 4 but that international departures remain unaffected.

The authority said "all runways and taxiways are fully operational. Airlines remain in recovery mode, rebooking passengers from canceled flights and reuniting passengers with their luggage. Frigid temperatures continue to cause equipment failures and slower than normal operations."