A sudden power outage brought the world's busiest airport to a standstill Sunday, grounding scores of flights in Atlanta just days before the start of the Christmas travel rush. Authorities said that electricity should be restored at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport by midnight. Passengers at the airport were left in the dark when the lights suddenly went out at around 1pm. The blackout halted all outgoing flights, and arriving planes were held on the ground at their point of departure. International flights were being diverted, officials said. According to a Georgia Power statement, a fire in an underground electrical facility may have been responsible for the outage. The cause of the fire was not known. "No personnel or passengers were in danger at any time," the statement said.
The utility said that there are "many redundant systems in place" to ensure the power supply to the airport and that such outages at the airport "are very rare." Officer Lisa Bender of the Atlanta Police Department said officers were at the airport to help with crowd control and managing traffic around the airport. Delta Air Lines, which has its headquarters at the airport, said more than 450 mainline and regional flights were canceled. At Southwest Airlines, about 70 Atlanta departures out of 120 scheduled for Sunday were canceled. Hartsfield-Jackson is the world's busiest airport, a distinction it has held since 1998. The airport serves an average of 275,000 passengers daily, and nearly 2,500 planes arrive and depart each day, reports the AP.