The Port Authority of NY and New Jersey said the main break left three inches of water in the west end of Terminal 4 at JFK, and maintenance crews were sent in to mop and clean up.
The cancellations and delays were caused by a water pipe break flooded the arrivals hall at Terminal 4 just before 2 p.m. local time Sunday.
"What broke down - and it broke down badly - was the coordination between terminal operators and the airlines to assure that there were gates available for the arriving airplanes", Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority of NY and New Jersey, told reporters Sunday.
NPR's Amy Held reports that the water main broke at about 2 p.m. ET, halting worldwide flights at Terminal 4. "We will hold those responsible accountable for any shortcomings we find", he added. The terminal was reopened for arrivals Sunday night, according to WABC.
CBS News reported there were no injuries reported in the incident. That meant that all of the flights bound for Kennedy had to divert to other airports or turn around.
Part of the terminal was evacuated Sunday after water cascaded into the waiting area and swamped baggage carousel areas.
Rajesh Varadarajan, a 41-year-old software consultant en route from India to Trinidad, whose connecting flight to the Caribbean had been delayed more than 24 hours, sat JFK cut a poor comparison to airports such as Dubai or Singapore, and newer airports in his home country. When operations resumed on Friday, the backlog led to hundreds more delays or cancellations, crowding terminals with stranded passengers.
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The airport's runways and taxiways were fully operational, the port authority said earlier Sunday, but airlines remain in recovery mode after the storm, and many hundreds of passengers are stranded from canceled flights.
Equipment froze and baggage handling was delayed, which was compounded by staff shortages and heavier than normal passenger loads, the Port Authority said. "Our flight is operating and our teams are now moving our customers through the gate so they can board our aircraft".
"We intend to identify what went wrong, why it went wrong, where there were failures of communication and coordination, and we intend to fix it", said Cotton. It looked as if she was going to just miss the storm, but the plane never left the gate. While numerous bags have been removed from the water, some travelers have said that they have not received any indication of when they'll get their luggage back.
The China Southern flight was being towed when the planes collided shortly after midnight, the FAA said.
Global terminal operators intend to reunite passengers still in New York City with lost baggage by Tuesday morning, he said.