Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal was evacuated on Saturday morning and nearby roads were closed, after a French man was seen dropping what appeared to be a firearm into a bin.
Amid heightened security around the world after the wave of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, travellers were asked to leave the terminal at around 10am this morning “for the protection of the public”.
A 41-year-old man from France is being questioned by police after "what appears to be a firearm" was discovered, Sussex Police said.
The man was arrested and bomb teams conducted a controlled explosion. The item is now being investigated.
Photos of hundreds of people standing outside the airport were shared online as the building was evacuated.
Passengers and staff are now being allowed to return to the North Terminal after the security alert, police said.
A statement from Sussex Police said: "Police were called at around 9.30am following suspicious actions by a man who discarded an item in a bin at the airport.
"Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialists were called to the airport to investigate the item and carried out a small controlled explosion.
"Personal items and what appears to be a firearm were recovered and have been removed for forensic examination. However, the viability of the weapon has yet to be established.
"A 41-year-old man from Vendôme in France was arrested at the scene at the time of the report on suspicion of firearms offences. He was 'landside' at the airport and had not checked in or passed through any passport or security checks."
Detective Superintendent Nick May said: "The man is being interviewed as we try to determine the circumstances of the incident, but at this time it is too early to say what his intentions, if any, were.
"However, given the events in Paris on Friday evening, there is heightened awareness around any such incident and it is best that we treat the matter in all seriousness.
"We are aware that there is concern about what has happened in France, but the general threat level remains the same and people should be aware as usual of anyone acting suspiciously and report any concerns immediately."
All Easyjet flights out of Gatwick Airport's North Terminal appeared to be suspended and moved to the South Terminal during the security alert.
All Easyjet flights from north terminal have been suspended, according to announcement at #gatwick just now— Amber de Botton (@AmberSkyNews) November 14, 2015
All Easyjet flights due from north terminal suspended. Told to go south terminal.This is the queue - can't see front pic.twitter.com/rG8L78baDC— Amber de Botton (@AmberSkyNews) November 14, 2015
Slightly worrying scenes at Gatwick airport now. Terminal evacuated earlier and now all EasyJet flights have been suspended.— Mark Lenehan (@MarkLenehan) November 14, 2015
All Easyjet flights from #Gatwick suspended...— Posthuman (@posthumanmusic) November 14, 2015
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A statement from Gatwick said: "Due to an incident the North Terminal landside area has been evacuated as a precautionary measure. As part of this precautionary measure roads in the immediate proximity to the airport have been closed.
"Passengers due to arrive into the North Terminal will be arriving into the South Terminal.
"Landside passengers who were already onsite in the North Terminal are being looked after in nearby hotels.
"Passengers due to fly from the North Terminal should contact their airline for the latest information"
PARIS ATTACKS: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:
- At least 127 dead, and fears death toll could be around 140
- At least five locations targeted in suicide bombings and shootings
- Around 80 slain at Bataclan concert theatre after hostage situation
- Restaurants, football stadium attacked in night of horror
- Police leave cancelled and around 1,500 soldiers mobilised
- French border controls increased, state of emergency declared
- Eight extremists killed, all attackers thought to be dead
- Manhunt under way for accomplices
- David Cameron to chair meeting of Government Cobra committee