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CNN producer Heyse: 'There is panic'


On the Scene
Istanbul (Turkey)

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- A massive fire broke out at Turkey's Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul on Wednesday, forcing hundreds to flee as huge plumes of black smoke darkened the sky. CNN's Miles O'Brien spoke to CNN producer Kaya Heyse at the scene of the blaze for "American Morning" shortly after 9 a.m. ET.

O'BRIEN: Panic reported inside the airport, as passengers tried to get away from what you can see would be a horrifying scene. Joining us now on the line with some more information is Kaya Heyse, one of our producers in that part of the world. What can you tell us?

HEYSE: We still don't know the cause of this fire, and from miles away, you can see the plumes of smoke, hundreds of meters high up in the air, and also the traffic around the airport is coming to a standstill. What people are telling us, who are coming from the airport, say there is panic within the cargo terminal where the fire broke out. Hundreds of firefighters, including planes, are trying to extinguish the fire and trying to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the airport.

A couple of hundred meters away from the cargo terminal, is the big airport hotel, which also could come under threat of the flames. People we talked to from the area have not heard an explosion or a plane crash or something like that. We think mostly it's an accident that is under investigation. Nobody knows now. [They are just] keeping the fire under control.

O'BRIEN: Kaya, a question for you. Do you happen to know if this cargo facility is anywhere near a fuel depot or a fuel line that might have been ruptured one way or another and is feeding that blaze?

HEYSE: ....Really, at this point, it's too early to tell, because it's a huge area where this fire broke out and the firefighters are desperately trying to keep the fire from spreading to other parts of the airport.

O'BRIEN: Did you know, Kaya, have the authorities, one way or the other, said whether all airplanes in the air have been accounted for? Was there a possibility that this is the result of an airplane crash?

HEYSE: Of course, there are many theories now, many things are being said. What we have been told until now is that the fire broke out within the terminal. It was some kind of accident, some people heard some kind of explosion. We really at this point do not have any exact reason for the cause. Now I'm approaching the airport, I see planes splashing water on the area and trying to put the fire out.

It's very huge, traffic has come to a standstill and you can't see your hand in front of your nose, it's so much smoke here, and there's panic in the region. People are running away from the scene, and some people are watching the fire from a distance. The firefighters are still trying very hard to try to get the flames under control.

O'BRIEN: Kaya, do you know, we talked about passengers obviously concerned and some degree of panic there. Has it officially -- the airport -- been officially evacuated in its entirety? As we look at one of those tankers trying to douse the blaze ... is everybody out of harm's way that can be taken out of harm's way?

HEYSE: The operation is still going on. I'm now seeing hundreds of cars, taxis, minivans, private cars, buses, hundreds of cars that are just leaving the vicinity of the airport. Police have now blocked the traffic in order to make way for the hundreds of cars which are, in a way, escaping the airport, and trying to get to a safe place. And still, the evacuation operation is going on, and at the scene right there in front of the terminal now, police have blocked all entrances and trying to keep people away from the scene, and also from the passenger terminals.

People are now trying to get away -- hundreds of cars, buses, minivans, are leaving the area ... A couple of water trucks are coming now to help and I see ambulances in the vicinity where the fire broke out and they are now trying to check if there are any wounded people. I have not received any reports of wounded people or fatalities. Because the fire broke out in a far away place of the terminal, there doesn't seem to be any fatalities.

I've seen also hundreds of people watching from distance, the fire, and police trying to keep all the people away. Planes are flying over the scene, dropping water over the fire and still big plumes of smoke are hundreds of meters in the air ... tons of ambulances, firefighters. Hundreds of people are desperately trying to extinguish the fire, trying to prevent any spread to other parts of the airport.

O'BRIEN: Kaya Heyse, on the scene there for us.

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